The MPW Insiders Network is an online community where the biggest names in business and beyond answer timely career and leadership questions. Today’s answer for, “What advice would you give to women who hope to make it to the C-suite?” is written by Kathy Bloomgarden, CEO of Ruder Finn.
When we give advice to women who are aspiring to make it to the C-suite, we often talk about leadership qualities. But strong leadership credentials should already be a given for anyone in the running.
So what tips the balance toward achieving the top positions?
Just look at where business is today. Many industries are experiencing fundamental changes driven largely by technology. Artificial intelligence, robotics, the Internet of Things, quantum computing, and others are redefining not only business, but also the way we interact with each other. While these technologies hold a great deal of promise, we can expect them to create new challenges for companies and individuals, from delivering true breakthrough innovation to preventing attacks from new enemies in cybersecurity. It will take extraordinary leaders to navigate this transformation, and leaves huge opportunities for women who want to climb the corporate ladder.
Here are a few points to keep in mind as you raise your hand to offer counsel on how to succeed in these uncertain times:
Think like a tech company
Tech companies know they can leverage emerging innovations to increase productivity and meet customer needs more effectively in real time. Tomorrow’s leaders need to build a culture that is open to adopting new capabilities and tools. They will have to inspire agile thinking and embrace a culture that is more like a startup. GE has done this incredibly well and reinvented itself as an industrial internet company. CEO Jeff Immelt said GE (GE) will be a “top 10 software company” by 2020.
Ready the company for accelerated change
Leaders need to explain that change will be a journey, and not necessarily a finite project with a beginning and an end. To be successful, leaders in the C-suite need to shift internal mindsets to focus on how their organizations can evolve and adapt. They need to ensure their teams are open to new ideas and are able to recognize when a program put in place a few years ago is no longer the right one—it might, in fact, be slowing them down. Leaders need to lift up novel ideas and encourage teams not to do things just because they always did it like that.
Find your differentiated strategy
Finally, always ask what sets you apart. Lead your teams to continually search for a differentiated strategy. Questions to keep on the top of your list include: What do you do uniquely well that sets you apart from competitors? How can customers get more value from what you do for them? How can you fill missing gaps? How can you reinvent yourself to be even more compelling in the future?
If you follow this course, you will not only be a strong candidate, but even more so, you’ll be that compelling leader prepared to score the C-suite position.