Leadership expert, Dr. Stacey Ashley, joins us at the Hacker Valley Studio to talk about her journey from the corporate world of leadership to her current roles in consulting and coaching. As a speaker, author, and educator for leaders, especially executive and C-level leaders, Dr. Ashley shares foundational skills needed to go from expert to leader, mindset shifts that need to occur regarding our perspective on our own leadership responsibilities, and experiences that inspired her to become an author.
[02:58] Developing stronger leadership capabilities and understanding the value of scaling work with her decision to become an author
[09:51] Jumping over the hurdles and obstacles to becoming a better leader through mindfulness, practice, and checking the privilege of your executive role
[13:45] Knowing when to get off the treadmill of busyness and focusing on setting better boundaries for yourself as a leader
[20:53] Cultivating the next level of leadership with a focus on mentoring, role modeling, and coaching
[25:40] Providing advice for future leaders and understanding the values of awareness and of developing your listening skills
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What have been some of the challenges that you've seen, out of yourself or from others, to start to cultivate that leadership ability?
There’s a common path to leadership in many industries, especially tech and cyber, where becoming good at your job skyrockets you into leadership spaces and executive roles. While this is often an achievement worth being proud of, Dr. Ashley warns that we rarely mentor and teach these newly appointed leaders how to lead. Expert skills are important to have, but not being able to satisfy your executive role and your leadership responsibilities with developed leadership skills leads to confusion and dissatisfaction amongst employees and clients who aren’t receiving the type of leadership guidance normally delivered by someone in that role.
“It's great to have those specialist skills, but it's not enough. If you're going to lead people, if you're going to lead a program of work, if you're going to be a thought leader, or an influencer, or any of those things, you need to have more skills.”
What are some of the common obstacles that people have that keeps them from being the best leader that they can be?
Dr. Ashley is the first to admit that tech leadership issues and obstacles are hardly a one size fits all. However, a commonality she sees is a focus on busyness instead of on active leadership practices. Being “busy” does not translate into high levels of productivity, especially for leaders in prominent company or industry roles. She advises that a better focus for leaders and aspiring executives is to practice their leadership skills and prioritize finding a coach or mentor, instead of just filling up their schedule with unnecessary busy work.
“This whole concept of busy isn't actually very effective. Busy is just doing stuff for the sake of doing stuff. One of the things that I find that great leaders do is that they're really clear about where they make a difference, where they add value, where they can make a real contribution. They don't focus on being busy, they focus on the important stuff.”
What sort of creative license do you give for those people that just want to be helpful, but are over taxed when it comes to their job?
We all want to better prioritize our tasks and to feel less overwhelmed by our work, but setting boundaries often feels mean or unrealistic for those used to being helpful and people pleasing. Dr. Ashley sees this a lot in her work, where she often advises people to consider how they’re saying no and what ways they’re presenting what they’re working on. By showing people that you have important tasks that rely on your focus to attend to, you’re inviting them to see your time in a much more understanding light and you will invite them to consider that they should try on their own for a solution and prioritize their own tasks before they can engage with you again.
“I think if we let people know that we're doing something else, and that it has a big impact, then they're much more understanding. Also, we're giving that other person some time to see if they can figure that thing out on their own rather than relying on us.”
What are some of the tenants that you follow for cultivating the next level of leadership?
Dr. Ashley believes that one of our key responsibilities as leaders is to grow this next generation of leaders and help them develop the best leadership skills imaginable. She advocates for this by focusing on three core tenants. The first being mentorship, meaning you’re willing to share your knowledge, wisdom, and experiences all on a personal mentorship front. The second is role modeling, where you’re showing how to be a good leader, representing what that looks like for everyone in your business. The third? Coaching, which she bases a large majority of her career around. Being able to coach and provide a customizable approach for future leaders allows them to address what they need to learn and where they need to grow.
“I don't know if every leader recognizes this, but every day, you are role modeling. You may not be role modeling great stuff, but you are role modeling. And so, you have a responsibility every day to recognize your role modeling.”
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