I’ve had a few conversations with women leaders recently where the story I hear goes something like this: I was doing my job, never thought of myself as a leader, someone else told me how great I was and now here we are. Surprise! I am in charge.
While I’m sure that’s how it happened for some women, I would prefer to paint a different narrative for aspiring leaders. One closer to what my peer Carey Jenkins, CEO of Substantial, shared in a Q&A for Seattle Magazine’s Daring Women series. “I ended last year thinking for the first time, ‘What if I were CEO?’ Within a couple of months, I was in talks for the role.” It’s refreshing to hear a woman leader tell us she believed in herself and made her goals come to life. And it’s essential that we tell the next generation of leaders you don’t need to wait for someone to tap you on the shoulder.
I, like many women, was raised not to brag. There’s certainly some goodness in that lesson—no one wants to hang around people who can’t shut up about how great they are. But (to twist an expression from Anne Lamott) the sunny side of bragging is owning your own strength. It’s saying: I am qualified to weigh in here, I’m up for the debate, and in some cases, here’s why I’d make a great CEO.
As February sees many easing off aggressive New Year’s resolutions to KonMari their basement or detox their beauty routine, we at 2A are homing in on a theme for the year. We’re working toward refining how we talk to our strengths and the value of our work. For us, that’s explaining design decisions, backing up copy choices with strategy, and speaking up when we have tested opinions. We’re calling it demonstrating our worth.
The flip side of that coin is making sure we’re treated fairly and honoring our worth. That’s insisting on fair pricing, communicating the benefits of reasonable timelines, and saying no to projects that just don’t fit.
My partners and I have been helping clients market for over a decade. But we’ve been doing it as 2A for just five years. For us, startup mode helped us build a body of strong work, win and keep exceptional clients, and recruit some of the most talented marketers around. Now—with a team of over 40 consultants, designers, storytellers, PMs, developers, and administrators—we’ve outgrown startup mode.
While creating amazing and effective work for our clients will always be the core of our effort, we also need to nurture a culture that supports creativity and experimentation. This is how we’ll hang on to that team and those clients, and how our work will get even better. It’s time to shirk the imposter syndrome—to stop waiting for someone to tap us on the shoulder—and act like the thriving team we’ve become.
It’s essential for our business to honor and demonstrate our worth. And it’s the next step for us as individuals, for aspiring leaders, and for women who want to take charge.