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Want to Get Ahead?

By Sara Leoni

Women have made huge strides in achieving leadership positions at companies, but still have a long way to go to close the gender gap. Here are some tips on how to take the plunge to move into leadership positions.

· Hard work is everything: The first rule of business is that you’re working for the company, they’re not working for you. Starting from the bottom and working yourself up the ladder is a fact of life. Work hard and soak in as much as you can at those lower levels. Working your butt off from the start of your career will help you drive forward and determine what you’d ultimately like to be. Good things don’t happen just because you say you want to become a CEO. They happen when you work hard to become a better leader.

· Take risks: From my experience, men seem to throw caution to the wind and take major risks. Women, on the other hand, are more conservative. We want to know if we’ll succeed before taking that first step forward. Unfortunately, that can make us our own worst enemies when trying to change things up. We need to throw our inhibitions aside more often and accept that even if we fail in the end, the risk and learning experience are worth it.

· Get real world experience: If you’re in college, don’t sit at an ice cream parlor during your summer. Get out there and into an office. Get a real internship and learn as much as you possibly can. Math classes are also very important to building a business, so don’t skimp on them. Even though you may have a degree, when you graduate you’re starting out at the bottom with thousands of other people, so you need to set yourself up for success.

· Network, network, network: Build relationships with people who intimidate you initially until you become more comfortable with them. For me, moving from VP to CEO wasn’t too daunting because I had already earned the respect of my investors and was comfortable with them. If you do this, the people around you won’t be as intimidating and will actually become a great support system to help you move forward.

Sara Leoni is a passionate and dedicated leader with a talent for building and leading phenomenal teams that develop innovative solutions with a positive social impact. With nearly a decade of experience in higher education, she has contributed to saving students over half a billion dollars, while providing critical services that improved student persistence and retention rates on campuses. Sara believes that understanding and connecting with the customer is the key to achieving profound impact. She enjoys the challenge of combining deep customer insights with a focused and ambitious team, all working towards achieving big, hairy audacious goals, and celebrating success along the way.

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