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You’re not a leader if you’re not doing this one important thing

A managing director of creative agency Eleven reflects on her career and says, “Understanding that you don’t know everything, and you can learn from someone else, opens your eyes to so many growth opportunities and ways to advance, not only professionally, but personally.”


When I look back at my 30-year career, I mostly remember the feelings. I recall the rush of my first big assignment, the nerves that came with being asked my opinion for the first time, and the joy that came from the pace of my success alongside my male peers. But as a woman in a male-dominated industry in the late 1980s, I also remember feeling different and the overcompensating that was done to “play the game” and fit in.

I had a couple of women to look up to, but for the most part, there were very few examples of women in leadership in business overall. It was difficult to navigate all of the choices and challenges that come with building a career in our industry when there were so few people who could relate to the nuances of what I was experiencing. Yes, I had friends and peers (and my dad—ding ding ding—another male), but I needed someone like me to give it to me straight. Someone I saw myself in, who had experiences I could relate to, and who was actively invested in me and my growth. What I needed was a mentor.

The reason I understand how valuable mentorship is—female mentorship, in particular—comes from the fact that it’s everything I wish I’d had in those early years. I was not fortunate to have another female leader guiding me through the long days, late nights, and second-guessing of myself that came with working around a bunch of people that didn’t look like me. Not having a female mentor then was less of a decision I made and more of a combination of external factors—some that still exist today. But now, in an effort to help young women have the support they need to thrive, I lead a female mentorship program, and here’s what I attempt to instill among our mentees and mentors.

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