Girls! Duh. Everyone knows that.
I recently headed to a school in Northern Tasmania that was running a pioneering before school program for girls in Year 8 that they had identified as future leaders. I went along to talk about my career, my take on leadership, and how to navigate the path to both while staying in alignment with whatever it is that defines your you.
The girls were fabulous, and as I looked at them, and their, beautiful, wild diversity, I was struck with how hard that journey can be sometimes, and how often you are asked to deviate and compromise, and how extra hard it is to say no sometimes.
I can summarise my talk in the following messages, which are, of course, purely hindsight genius, and probably not what I would have said or done at age 16, 23, 31, or 37 :-)
1. You don't have to know what you want to do, but you do have to know WHO you are, as having a clear understanding of your values, what you will and won't do, will act as a guide for the important decisions, and the minor ones, which will ultimately lead you to many adventures in your career and love.
2. You don't have to know why, to say yes. Say yes often, say yes even if it seems nuts, but your gut is telling you it's right. Say yes if you are frightened of failure or criticism, or worse, success.
3. Not everyone is going to like you. And that is completely OK. You don't have to like them either, but you do have to be kind, and empathetic, and aware that you are not the reason for their issues, just a reminder of it, and that you may not share their opinions or values, but that doesn't invalidate theirs, or yours.
4. You need to speak up. When you are in situations which you know are not right, especially when it involves another being persecuted, or bullied, or marginalised, even if you are scared, you cannot stay silent, and by speaking up and stepping in, you will make positive change.
5. You need to shut up. When you are about to judge, or criticise, or gossip, or make someone else small to make yourself bigger, and you need to shut up your inner critic when you turn those actions on yourself, which will be in equal proportion.
6. Leadership comes from the front and behind and in the middle. Everyone can lead in the way they live, and be, and some will be very public, others more impactful in a quiet local way. You don't need to wait to lead, you don't need anything more to lead than you already have, and you will find many expressions of leadership as soon as you look for them.
7. Ask for help. Often, and humbly accept what is given, and what is not.
8. You are enough.
Dr Polly McGee is one part writer, and many parts assorted thinker, do-er, talker, eater, chef, explorer, yogi, kirtaneer and dog wrangler. She has worked in kitchens, bars and restaurants from frantic to fancy, managed multi-million dollar innovation grants programs, advised hundreds of start-ups on how to refine their business ideas and source funding, and championed causes from a variety of soapboxes, lecterns and stages. She is currently the Strategic Marketing Lead for Global Edtech Startup Prosper Education. Her new book, The Good Hustle, is coming out in February 2018