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Grace, Strength & Compassion: 5 Leadership Takeaways from Condoleezza Rice

If there’s anything we should emulate as empowered women, it’s the 5 leadership takeaways from Condoleezza Rice. When we think of strong female leaders of our time, Condoleezza Rice is likely at the top of many of our lists. To become America’s U.S Secretary of State and the first African-American woman to hold such office, she overcame many obstacles. She grew up in Birmingham, Alabama during the civil rights era, and therefore dealt with some of the most aggressive politicians and situations in the world. Maybe that’s what ultimately gave Secretary Rice her base strength to springboard to such great heights. As National Security Advisor and then U.S. Secretary of State she managed the aftermath of 9/11, and events related to North Korea, the Middle East, Russia, and so much more. It’s no surprise that Forbes named her one of the most powerful women in the world.

For me, Secretary Rice epitomizes the expression, “Grace under fire.”

I had the wonderful opportunity of meeting Secretary Rice in New York City at a women’s financial advisors conference last fall. When she walked in, her presence filled the room. She stood 5’10 with her three-inch heels and wore an elegant black dress. Her voice was gentle, self-assured, articulate, and smooth. She spoke of her experience in intense, high-stakes negotiations. She also stressed the importance of effective communication skills that utilize both your words and non-verbal body language, weighting each as critical to successful communication.

A leader by example, Secretary Rice spoke about having to carve out her own niche with limited role models, she said, “If I’d been waiting for a black, female, soviet specialist role model, I’d still be waiting.”

In another comment, she stressed, “We need to move beyond the idea that girls can be leaders and create the expectation that they should be leaders.” She continues, “Truly remarkable leadership is not just about motivating others to follow, it’s about inspiring them to become leaders themselves and setting the stage for future generations.”

Can you imagine walking out the door today and filling Secretary Rice’s shoes at the highest levels of our government? Guts and perseverance needed for sure.

5 Leadership Takeaways from Condoleezza Rice:

  • Educate yourself. Secretary Rice is a believer—growing up with academics as parents—of educating yourself and preparing for your future. Picture where you want to be and avoid the situation of being passed over for opportunities for lack of education or training.
  • Stay centered. Secretary Rice has her faith, as a Christian. Whatever your beliefs are, having that internal centering will help you become resilient, and endure what’s necessary to navigate through your career.
  • Call in your ‘avatar’ mentor. Don’t wait for someone to show you the way if you don’t have a role model. How do you do this? Ask yourself, “What would Condoleezza Rice do in my situation?” It works.
  • Be involved. Encourage your daughters, nieces, sisters, and college bound students to seek out debate classes and play on sport teams. This will help instill confidence when playing ‘corporate ball’ with men.
  • Dress for your A-Game meetings with A-Game apparel. First impressions can easily affect the person you’re interacting with in how they treat you. Why take a risk when it’s an easy fix? Dress like it’s your most important meeting every day.

Integrating these 5 Leadership Takeaways from Condoleezza Rice into my life has helped me immensely, especially as I was looking to climb the corporate ladder. I started out as an entry-level assistant in a new industry and eventually made it to senior management. This climb is often challenging, but if you consistently look towards those mentors and individuals you admire, you’ll find yourself channeling their behavior and decision-making to right your course.

Who is your most admired female leader? Let me know on Twitter @MarjaNorris!

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