Eileen Strider is the President of Strider & Cline Inc. which she co-founded with her husband, Wayne Strider. Eileen and Wayne have been coaching and consulting in the project leadership space for the past 25 years.
You don’t have to do it like they do; be authentic
I was a department manager, with 6 or 7 project managers reporting to me, and I didn’t think it possible to progress to a director-level position. There was only one female director in the very large company (almost 100,000 employees) where I worked and she was in HR. There were no female directors and never had been in IT where I worked (3,600 employees). Then I attended a class where the instructor asked us to close our eyes and picture having a career dream come true. I was having trouble picturing myself as a director. When the instructor asked me why I thought I was having trouble. I said “Because all the directors are male.” Then she said “What makes you think that if you are a director, you have to be like them?” A light bulb went on for me. I realized “Oh, I don’t have to do it like they do it! I can do it like I would do it.”
To me, this is at the heart of being an authentic leader. Just be yourself. You are an authentic person; there is no one else just like you; you are unique. It can sometimes be scary to just be yourself; you have to find your courage. In fact, you already have it; all you need to do is practice it. Take a step back, observe what is going on and integrate what you learn with your own wisdom. Don’t just mimic what you see and hear; make it your own. Look outward and observe the big picture, then look inward and use all your senses and your intuition to make meaning from it. That is how you build authenticity. Make an intention; do what is right and be courageous enough to say the truth. Lead yourself in ways that demonstrate your authenticity and this will encourage others to be honest and authentic too. But as we all know it can be hard to be introspective on your own and read the label from inside the jar. So find a good mentor who you can learn from and who can support you. Someone who exhibits the exact characteristics you would like to have, and if that means working with several mentors then that is fine too. – Eileen Strider, co-owner and President of Strider & Cline,
Design your own career
To develop into a leader, pick the ways that fit your personal development. Rather than letting it happen to you, design your own career by picking jobs, assignments, training, reading, finding coaches and mentors. Once I realized I could do this, I started making decisions that moved me in the direction I wanted to develop next. For example, I knew that I wanted to eventually be a consultant to executives and CIOs, so I wanted to have the experience of being a CIO, so I would know what it was like. To get this experience, I left a company and an industry that I’d been with for 24 years and took a CIO job in a totally different industry. I was a CIO for 4 years before leaving to become a full time consultant. – Eileen Strider, co-owner and President of Strider & Cline