Women Who Lead: Jori M. Culp, CPAPartner, Smoker Smith & Associates P.C.
What leadership traits have served you well? And on the flip side, what have you learned that tends to hold women leaders back?
Like most women, I’m a professional multi-tasker! The list of all my roles could cause many other heads to also nod in agreement. My approach, however, involves integrating all aspects of my life rather than compartmentalizing them. This mindset helps me to prioritize, be more efficient and productive, and more importantly, less guilty about not being fully present in every moment.
It’s important for a leadership team to include varying perspectives, fulfill multiple roles, and add contrasting thought processes. As women step into more management positions, I see new and energetic ideas and approaches to the once male-dominated leadership teams. By embracing my empathy, my decisiveness, and my ability to adapt to changes and take risks, I’ve added a positive dynamic to our firm’s leadership team.
While I’d love to say nothing holds me back, I recognize I have a knack for being reactive (I prefer to say I’m passionate and energetic.). Because my responsibility reaches beyond me, I’ve worked to effectively pair impulses with caution and practicality. All leaders must realize professional decisions affect an entire team of people.
I truly believe, however, that the ability to become a leader is unique to each person. Use your qualities, and learn from the best qualities of your leadership heroes and peers, regardless of gender.
Women and men tend to lead differently. What are some valuable traits can we learn from each gender?
This question goes to the heart of a great leadership team! Confidence is crucial. In general, I think women have a tendency to underestimate and second-guess themselves. In this regard, we can take a pointer or two from our male counterparts who often exhibit more confidence in the workplace. This trait is important because I observe confidence leading to more objective decision-making, more direct communications, and better negotiations.
But on the flip side, I find that women in general have an innate ability to focus on teamwork and manage horizontally. This shift in leadership style is engaging the next generation of employees, who are our potential successors. In addition, women tend to be more patient and handle stress more calmly, the effects of which help to maintain a more favorable office environment.
The ability to recognize your own strengths and weaknesses, and see how they fit into your leadership style and compliment those around you, is the best trait any leader - male or female – can possess.
What advice would you give to the next generation of female leaders?
I think I actually should be asking for advice from them! The next generation of female professionals and leaders are kicking butt and breaking down age-old barriers. The best advice I can give would include:
- Don’t let anything get in the way of setting and achieving career goals. Barriers are temporary!
- Identify your strengths and use them to continue moving forward, ignoring stereotypes. Become the leader that suits YOU.
- Embrace what makes you unique, and creatively exploit those qualities. Every. Single. Day.
- Choose your work wisely so you can love what you do. Be real. Feed your soul.
- People will look up to you, depend on you, and learn from you. Appreciate it. Welcome it. Learn from it. Be humbled by it.
What valuable career lesson or lessons would you like to share with others?
Leadership is about more than just control and decision making. It’s about being a role model, setting examples, and leading a team of individuals coming together to achieve a common goal. The responsibility of making decisions and taking necessary risks is just as important as championing for your employees and connecting with your clients.
Your success as a leader is a direct result of a wide range of must-do activities. Identify opportunities, take risks, accept challenges, recognize the contributions of those that surround and lift you up, and understand your weaknesses. In the midst of these, you’ll be more successful if you embrace what you believe in.
Remember that without those who will follow you, the role of leader would be non-existent.