Over the next several months we will share blog posts from Tiffany Willis on her experience becoming a leader in the workplace.  The blog series, The Making of a Leader will delve into topics such as characteristics of a leader and empowerment. If you have any ideas or thoughts on these topics, please feel free to drop us a note!

Without Confidence, There is No Leader

About 9 months ago I was promoted to a leadership position. It’s the best job I’ve ever had – considering it blends my love of special education and administration. However, as a leader, I have not mastered directing others with confidence, influence, and effectiveness.

Here’s a story that shows my struggle.

It’s August and I am hosting my first major meeting on with leaders in the school. Weeks in advance, I prepped the materials, wrote down talking points and reviewed the agenda with my supervisor. Hell, I even practiced in my office to make sure everything flowed. I reviewed common misconceptions and thought of any questions the team may have wanted to ask. I was ready to run this meeting.

Literally 10 minutes before the meeting I had an anxiety attack and started sweating. I physically (not mentally) pulled myself together to begin the meeting. Once the meeting started, I completely choked. I forgot everything I prepared and stuttered through the entire meeting. I even skipped items written on the agenda right in front of my face. God, this was the longest meeting of my life and I felt like I disappointed Tyra Banks. I think I embarrassed my supervisor (she may tell you I’m exaggerating and being dramatic).

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Moral of the story is I need some work.

As a result, I read “The Executive Presence.” The book helps to build your presence to command a room and become a change catalyst within your sphere of influence.”The Executive Presence” often uses authentic examples to develop a presence. My favorite chapter is “Walking the Tightrope” because it brings to the forefront life issues that many minorities, especially women of color experience.

“A woman who shows teeth, such as–who is decisive, assertive, and willing to hold her ground–risks being perceived as a bitch, or non-cooperative (“not a team player”).”

This direct excerpt from the”The Executive Presence” is an everyday reality for any woman.”The Executive Presence” explains that taking your opinion and evolving it from a personal perspective to a team perspective will demolish the idea that you are not a team player, but support the idea that you are a passionate person who wishes to see the team succeed, ie command a room.

Although all novice leaders should read self-help guides to leadership, I still believe that nothing will prepare you more than that in-the-moment experience. Nevertheless, after reading”The Executive Presence,” I have experienced growth in leadership in the workplace. In fact, 6 weeks ago I was in a meeting and displayed zero anxiety and spoke with expert knowledge. I felt confident and believed that other participants could feel my presence.

Check back next month as I give you a look into my experience becoming a leader.