MPW Insiders is an online community where the biggest names in business and beyond answer timely career and leadership questions. Today’s answer for: What are three skills that are critical to success? is written by Linda Celestino, vice president of guest services at Etihad Airways.
For me, there are two kinds of success: external or professional success and internal or personal success. Sometimes, in our younger years, we believe we are only measured on our external success and professional achievement. We think that that’s how the industry or world competes, but success is not singular, or based simply on our fortitude. To achieve success, you need to find your purpose, communicate, and adapt.
Finding your purpose
Finding your purpose and what you truly, deeply believe in 1,000% is fundamental to your success. This doesn’t always necessitate a world stage or a global cause. It can be as simple and pure as operating from a place of unwavering integrity. It is through this purpose that you’re able to create a powerful, internal belief system that brings with it the rich colors of integrity, your own personal work ethic, and being mindful of others.
With a clear purpose, you’re able to create for yourself a compass that will carry you through the toughest of challenges and any resistance you may experience from your industry or the outside world. For some of us, this sense of purpose comes early in our careers or lives, and for others it’s a journey of discovery. I’m not aware of many women in leadership who have achieved success doing anything other than what they absolutely believe in—heart and soul.
This may seem obvious, and communication may seem like a basic concept, but it is a much deeper skill. Communication for communication’s sake is vacuous and empty. Communication, when used to build relationships—whether in a team environment, between a company and its customer, or in our daily lives—drives every negotiation, whether it’s monetary, professional, or personal.
Truly effective communication is more than listening and asking questions or putting forward your business information or goals. Communicating with confidence, warmth, and heart builds trust. It is through that trust that you are able to take people on a journey with you as a leader. The greatest world leaders in history, whether professional, political, or spiritual, have used effective communication, relationships, and reputation to influence their followers to walk into battle, to follow them barefoot across continents, or to stand for their cause. They achieved this by leading from the heart and being honest. Aim to be powerful enough to be heard, and respected enough to be followed.
As a manager of a large, multi-cultural, remote workforce of more than 6,000 people of 118 nationalities, I do not have the luxury of a universal language of leadership. I need to engage my employees and foster relationships based on the common denominator and shared goal of elevating our business. That, coupled with establishing trust and consistently engaging employees, is what solidifies their commitment to our company. For me, effective communication is key to the success and sustainability of all aspects of my relationships with my employees.
Adaptability and the ability to thrive in ambiguity
Surviving and thriving in change is important, particularly during these challenging times. As a female leader in the Middle East, in what has been a historically male-dominated industry, staying motivated and inspired in uncertain environments—with extremely strong competition and changing worldwide priorities—is critical to success.
Regardless of the industry you’re in, it is even more critical as a woman to demonstrate the resilience we inherently have, including flexibility and adaptability. I believe women have a unique ability to capture the imagination of what’s possible and be empowered to deliver that in ambiguity. And it’s a skill set that most organizations are looking for in senior leadership.
Women who truly move people aren’t those who are held back by dogma. To be comfortable with ambiguity and furthermore, to look for opportunities to grow and continue to deliver in the midst of it, is key.