The Ministry for Women has identified some top tips that can help you build a successful leadership or governance career.
Develop a plan
Create a plan which will provide a pathway for you to follow as you work toward your career or governance goals. This will help to ensure your efforts are targeted and decisions, particularly around roles which are offered to you, can be made wisely.
Build on your strengths
Identify your strengths and look for opportunities where you can contribute and add real value. You can find out more about different leadership opportunities here. The Ministry has developed a tools to help women explore their governance strengths and interests. You will find the My Board Strengths tool here.
Skills and experience count
The size and complexity of the organisations you have been involved with affects how your capability is perceived. For instance, if you have experience in large or complex organisations you are more likely to be perceived as suitable for leadership roles in those organisations.
For boards, it is generally harder to ‘break into’ business those boards without a business background, and experience in the business sector is often sought after in other sectors. Law and accountancy and an understanding of regulatory compliance and financial literacy have traditionally been in demand for boards. If your expertise is in other areas, we recommend you emphasise your general management experience while also pointing out the added value you can bring from your specialty.
Show you are serious
Completing management, leadership or governance training is useful for improving your understanding of the leadership or board roles. There are a range of providers available. Also, membership of the Institute of Directors in New Zealand also indicates you are a serious and motivated director. However, when considering your suitability for a board vacancy – relevant skills and experience are paramount. More information on the kinds of skills and experience that are highly valued is here.
Manage your reputation
Your reputation is a vital asset. Build your reputation by delivering beyond expectation, being professional at all times and acting with integrity. To protect your reputation from unnecessary risk it is important to be discerning about the roles you accept. Do your due diligence when considering a governance role.
Moving into a different sector often means having to re-establish your reputation in that sector. Word of mouth is important so having wide networks is advantageous.
Peer validation is a good indication that you have earned a strong reputation. Having chairperson or deputy chairperson responsibilities indicates that you have the respect of your peers. Awards, fellowships, and honours also will help you stand out. Being reappointed for a second term also indicates you have been doing a good job, and are respected by your peers and stakeholders. Don't forget to include these things in your CV.
Network, network, network
Networking is an important tool for securing governance and leadership roles.. In addition to the networks you build through your day to day work, conferences, courses and participating in mentoring programmes are great opportunities to raise your profile. Belonging to community leadership organisations, such as Lions, Rotary and Toastmasters, is another avenue for meeting influential people and raising your profile.
Promote your successes
Communicate your successes and the contributions you have made in your employment and governance roles, particularly to key influencers or decision makers whenever the opportunity arises. This will help you stand out from the crowd. Be sure to emphasise strengths you have that are in high demand and short supply. Draw attention to these in your CV. See our advice on creating a good governance CV.
There is strong competition for leadership and governance roles. The first role is often the hardest to get, but as your experience and reputation grow, more opportunities are likely to come your way. To succeed, you need to be persistent. If you don’t have immediate success, don’t take it personally – keep developing your talents and building your experience.