A toolbox of experience that every female CEO needs

29 May 2015


Tuning in to new skills, compromising on “having it all” and valuing teamwork are key to success at the top, says a seasoned female boss and mentor

Mimi Thigpen

Female executives with aspirations for the C-suite received heartening news recently, with reports that the average pay of women in charge of Standard & Poor 500 firms far outstrips the salaries of their male counterparts. This is clearly an exciting time for inspiring women to become CEOs – but there are plenty of day-to-day challenges they will face once they get there. Here, business leader Mimi Thigpen outlines the tools that women at the top will need for effective management and leadership…

1. Take on roles that teach you how to turn an idea into something that’s real – and how to grow a company

A successful CEO needs to learn a wide variety of skills – for example, product and project management – so look for roles that will teach you. Be prepared to take paths that you wouldn’t normally take, and volunteer to work on projects that will get you noticed.

2. Understand that you can have it all… just perhaps not all at the same time

Anyone’s career is a journey and has to be viewed that way – it’s hard to get the work-life balance right, but it will eventually happen, if you want it to.

3. Be prepared to take on jobs that you didn’t think you were ready for

People can often see our potential before we see it ourselves.

4. Value collaboration and learning from each other

Knowledge may be power – but sharing that knowledge with other people gives it even more potential impact. Everyone can learn from everyone. We all have something to teach, and something to learn. Look beyond the four walls of a company: the most useful lessons may come from a completely different walk of life. As mothers and homemakers, women are often incredible at juggling so many demands and learn from their peers, not just from their work colleagues. Acknowledge and use those resources.

5. Persevere

Embrace the unknown. Understand that business is a series of puzzles and challenges that need to be solved. Failure will happen because it is inevitable – what matters is learning from mistakes and carrying on. Continue to be curious about everything.

6. Know that you have a lot to offer as a CEO

It has been highly publicised that companies with the best performance have senior and board level diversity that is representative of the holistic company. This is diversity based not just upon gender, but culture, background and various other demographics. It’s that blend of different attributes that creates great teams. Women bring a very balanced and collaborative way of working to the C-Suite and boardroom, as well as natural multi-tasking skills, and those attributes can complement other leadership styles.

Mimi Thigpen is CEO at digital asset management firm North Plains Systems. She has held other senior positions in large corporates, acted a business mentor, worked with investors and spearheaded acquisition strategies.

For further thoughts on these issues, visit CMI’s Women in Management network.

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