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Archive for April, 2011

Sponsorship is a Powerful Leadership Strategy

Wednesday, April 20th, 2011

Last month, I attended the annual fundraiser of the Women’s Foundation of Minnesota.  The keynote speaker was Marie Wilson from the The White House Project.   The White House project is a national, non-partisan, not-for-profit organization with the aim to advance women’s leadership in all communities and sectors, up to the U.S. presidency.  To advance this mission, The White House Project strives to support women and the issues that allow women to lead in their own lives and in the world.  Marie was a passionate and dynamic speaker who made a compelling case for, among other things, women sponsoring women.  The theme of her talk was sponsorship and the role that women MUST play in sponsoring other women.  I was moved by the idea . . . and respectfully argue that the concept applies to both genders.  Sponsoring others is a powerful leadership strategy.  Whether they are emerging leaders, leading indivividual contributors, high potential team members, or someone who clearly demonstrates an interest in self-development, it’s important to reach out and help lift someone up.

Sponsorship involves 4 actions:

  1. Encourage.  Express your belief in his ability to succeed, both passionately and frequently.
  2. Support.  Look for all the ways you can help her get where she wants to go.
  3. Authorize.  Create a culture of “yes” so he can explore what is possible.
  4. Introduce.   Make sure you’re not the only one who knows who she is, sees her potential,  and recognizes her results.

When I was 23, I had a sponsor.  She made sure I was involved, connected, visible and responsible for just a little more than what was in my job description.  I loved it.  I felt engaged and I truly believed I could succeed.  I credit her with getting me a leg-up in a great 10 year career with that company.  Her faith in me and commitment to my success made me want to work harder, be more accountable, and get better results.  That’s typically what happens when someone is sponsored – they are driven to live up to the faith that is placed in them.  That’s one reason sponsorship is a powerful leadership strategy.  Another reason is that sponsorship begets sponsorship.  When you reach out and lift someone up, it increases the likelihood that she will do the same and the resulting culture is one where people help others and share in their successes.

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