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To Be a Great Leader, Get Comfortable with Being Uncomfortable

Feature Article | May 31, 2017 by Susan Galer

There’s plenty of talk about gender equality in the workplace, but the Women’s Forum at the recent SAP Ariba Live event in Las Vegas provided practical ways for people to act.

Among the highest rated programs of the entire event, the forum was expanded in response to the phenomenal reception from attendees at last year’s SAP Ariba Live events in Madrid, Las Vegas and Singapore. In addition to two sessions I covered earlier, I also attended the Annual Women in Leadership Luncheon, entitled “Create Tomorrow: Drive Conversation, Inspire Change, Build Community.”

L to R: Michele Promaulayko, Editor-in-Chief of Cosmopolitan, Alicia Tillman, CMO, SAP Ariba

“We are aware of the issues surrounding gender equality in the workplace,” said Alicia Tillman, chief marketing officer at SAP Ariba. “Now we have to solve them by educating and inspiring both women and men to take action.”

This year’s luncheon showcased the inspirational stories of two exceptional women. Each talked about their definition of success, how they manifest that in their daily lives, and what has motivated them throughout their careers.

From #SAPAribaLive, the Women’s Forum provided practical ways for people to act for workplace gender equality

Forget Mentors, Get a Sponsor

Lisa Skeete Tatum, Co-Founder and CEO of Landit, has launched an online platform designed to revolutionize how women approach their careers.

“Most diversity programs are only focused on intake, and that’s half the story,” said Tatum. “Companies have to make sure women are excelling and progressing. This is a market failure. We decided to create a playbook for women to successfully navigate their careers.”

Noting that women tend to underestimate themselves, Tatum advocated lifelong development to build a personal brand. “Even though women make up 53 percent of the workforce in the United States, we don’t progress,” she said. “This not a nice-to-have. This is an economic imperative. Women need to constantly learn and take risks to build the brand of you by having a personal board of advisors that includes a sponsor — someone who opens doors for you.”

Get Comfortable with Being Uncomfortable

When Michele Promaulayko became editor-in-chief of Cosmopolitan magazine she found herself at the forefront of a digitally transforming industry. She credited her success to risk-taking, leaving her first position at Cosmopolitan to jump into digital at Yahoo Health with little knowledge, then returning to assume the top leadership position at the magazine.

“Digital content consumption was growing, and I knew that I needed to figure this out,” Promaulayko said. “My willingness to take that huge risk, leaving a corner office to be in an open floor plan with no walls, combined with my earlier experience at Cosmopolitan, made me a candidate to become editor-in-chief of the magazine. They looked at me and said our industry is challenged. We need people who are adaptable innovators with historical knowledge.”

Promaulayko, who said her life mantra is to “get comfortable with being uncomfortable,” advocated for living a little bit on the edge of uncertainty. “It was challenging and uncomfortable to work in an environment with few people supporting me but that’s where the momentum comes from and the personal and career growth happens.”

Follow me @smgaler
Images via SAP

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