Women in Tech: Here’s How to Find Your Leadership Style

Communication, trust and guidance have powerful results.
Written by Remy Merritt
September 24, 2021Updated: September 27, 2021

Good leadership doesn’t come spontaneously; the skills and experience needed to successfully lead a team take time, trial, error and evolution.

Grace Jimenez, ERP team lead at Pampered Chef, built many of those necessary skills by learning from former leaders. Formative positive experiences with empathetic mentors inspired her to cultivate her own style around adaptability and respect. Those role models made her “feel appreciated and valued” by learning her strengths and motivations, she said. 

For Cisco Meraki’s vice president and CMO, refinery has been key. In her journey through leadership styles, Rebecca Stone learned just how powerful compromise can be. 

“In order to grow, I had to be truly honest with myself: was it more important to be right every time or to build a group of allies who support my long-term goals and visions?” 

This introspection has led her to personally evolve and recognize how to reach and build future leaders on her team. Stone guides with a results-oriented focus, by encouraging and inspiring her team to participate as leaders themselves.

No leadership style is a one-size-fits-all, and each of these five women has leaned on unique skills and best practices to find success. For those seeking guidance and empowerment, their words of wisdom offer a blueprint to developing and reaching set goals.

 

Grace Jimenez
ERP Team Lead

With more than a decade of leadership under her belt, Jimenez has learned that empathy and continuous learning is key to her growth and evolution.

 

How would you describe your leadership style?

As a people leader for more than 10 years, I try to adapt to meet my team’s needs. As a critical thinker, listener and coach, I lead with respect and transparency. I try to model respect across the team and have the same expectations for them. When my actions match my words, I gain the respect of not only my team, but other leaders across the team.

I also share as much information as I can, whether it is about our company and team direction or about myself. It is important that we as leaders care about our teams, as humans and people. While we are passionate about our work, we also are people with lives and families. Sharing stories, memories and major events has helped create a sense of trust within the team. 

Being a leader is about guiding and communicating. This involves communicating more when we see team members are lost and guiding when they need support, but also letting them make mistakes to continue their growth and passion, and celebrating successes with meaningful feedback and recognition.

 

What experiences or lessons helped shape your leadership style throughout your career?

I’ve learned a lot from many leaders I’ve had the chance to work with. While they were undoubtedly highly skilled, it was their impact on others that made them good leaders. They made me feel appreciated and valued by learning my strengths and what motivates me, and used that knowledge to help me grow and succeed. They trusted my abilities and made me feel safe to make mistakes and learn from them. Those experiences helped shape my leadership style and learn how to be a continuous learner.

Whether it is listening to a podcast, reaching out to others across the company to learn more about what they do, attending conferences or connecting with previous colleagues, being a continuous learner helps me refine and develop my leadership skills. Leadership is constantly evolving because people evolve. And so it is important that we listen and adapt to challenge and grow our teams to their full potential. Demonstrate empathy and respect and be a continuous learner.    

 

As a critical thinker, listener and coach, I lead with respect and transparency.

 

What advice do you have for others who may be struggling to define or own their leadership style?

My leadership style is always evolving. I find it helpful when I reflect on who I am, the values and qualities that I stand by, personally; these are typically values I expect others to role model in the workplace. I also remain open to feedback by asking for it. All too often we believe people will give feedback. We need to make it clear that we are open to it by inviting it, often.

Flexibility and adaptability are also key. Some employees might need you to demonstrate the task, and others need a quick overview. Be sure to adapt your style to ensure others are successful. I am hard on myself, but also give myself grace – no one is perfect, but with each mistake is a lesson learned to make me a better human.  

 

Helpfulness is the mark of a great leader. Behind Sun’s supportive style is a willingness to coach and an open ear.

 

How would you describe your leadership style?

Direct, and willing to coach.  I like to know about the important issues that my team is facing, and would like to be helpful in providing either directions or suggestions to address those challenges. I don’t have an answer for everything, but I’m always willing to brainstorm with my team and search for a path forward together.

 

What experiences or lessons helped shape your leadership style throughout your career?

Throughout my career I have always had good mentors and colleagues to talk to and get help from. Those candid conversations provided valuable input that helped to shape my career trajectory. From that firsthand experience, I know how important it is to have a support network. I want to be part of that support system for my team.

 

I don’t have an answer for everything, but I’m always willing to brainstorm and search for a path forward together.

 

What advice do you have for others who may be struggling to define or own their leadership style?

Everyone has a different leadership style and there is no one-size-fits-all. However, I think it will be helpful for any leader to regularly talk with and listen to the team, and work hand-in-hand with them. Throughout the process one will find out the teams’ needs and what styles or actions help the most in achieving broader team goals.

 

Christina Salmi
Managing Consultant and Data Strategy Practice Lead

Leaders that customize their style to meet individual needs can benefit from a greater reach and broader impact. Salmi tailors her approach for each team member, learning their preferences and helping them plan for their unique goals.

 

How would you describe your leadership style?

As a leader, my responsibility is to be an advocate for my team, and to be supportive in their work journey. I aim to provide constructive criticism when needed but also help others find their strengths and expand on them. My goal is to help each member of my team plan their unique path forward and to support those objectives with opportunities that will help them gain relevant experience. Instead of micromanaging, I have weekly or biweekly checkpoints to discuss progress toward objectives, as well as to discuss project work to look for opportunities to build on soft skills.

 

Look at conflicts as occasions to mentor and as opportunities for your employees to grow.

 

What experiences or lessons helped shape your leadership style throughout your career?

Working with different personality types has helped me to customize my management style. This allows me to learn how to help employees find and hone their own strengths. Knowing how and where you can provide value is very motivating. What’s been challenging, however, is learning to delegate. It may be easier to do things myself, but it is not sustainable. I’ve learned that the extra effort that may be involved with mentoring a team member to take on a task will benefit both you and them in the long run.

 

What advice do you have for others who may be struggling to define or own their leadership style?

Look at conflicts as occasions to mentor and as opportunities for your employees to grow. Prioritize your own tasks so you can be a better advocate for your team. What unique value do you bring to your organization? Prioritize those tasks and delegate the others.

 

Rebecca Stone
Vice President and CMO

For Stone, balancing compromise with a results-oriented approach keeps her team focused, motivated and invested.

 

How would you describe your leadership style?

I’m very results focused and detail oriented. I consider myself data obsessed and set a high standard for my own performance. I am also incredibly loyal and collaborative. I want everyone to feel invested in an outcome. 

As a result, my leadership style is highly supportive but with an equally high expectation of performance. I see myself as a team visionary. It’s my responsibility to charge ahead, encouraging my team to go on the journey with me, and yet the journey is really about enabling others to be successful. It’s about the mission that we are all on to make a difference. As the team lead, I can be at the center of the action, but mainly to protect the rest of the team and do my best to act with the team’s best interests at heart. 

 

My goal is to build an environment where good work and good people have a chance to shine. 

 

What experiences or lessons helped shape your leadership style throughout your career?

I was shaped through leadership by example. I am lucky enough to have worked for some of the most nurturing and positive bosses, and also in environments that taught me what I did NOT want to be as well. I had bosses who didn’t push me to be better and found myself bored and stagnant in my role. And I had bosses who were brilliant tacticians and taught me an incredible amount about specific processes to follow, but took all the recognition. As a leader, I strive to balance those things. My goal is to build an environment where good work and good people have a chance to shine and grow into leaders themselves. 

 

What advice do you have for others who may be struggling to define or own their leadership style?

Look around you. What leaders do you gravitate toward and what leaders aren’t a right fit for you? Define what you believe “good” and “not good” look like based on those assessments. Then, be honest with yourself. And I mean, really, truly, uncomfortably honest. Sometimes, the best way to do this is to talk with someone who you know will tell you the truth. What skills and personality traits match up with the good characteristics, and which ones don’t? Then it’s time to take action. How do you work to strengthen your good skills and improve on the skills or traits that may be holding you back? 

As an example: when I was struggling to move from director to senior director at a prior company, I kept being told I wasn’t ready, but no one really articulated what the challenge was. Then in a review I received some honest feedback about my ability to compromise. Compromise is an absolute necessity as you grow in your career. But at the time, I saw the world as black and white. It was an ego thing. I knew I was right and my idea was good. I was ready to defend my idea if I was challenged, and believed that by delivering a direct attack I could convince everyone else that they were wrong and I was right.

What I didn’t see is that even if I won the “battle,” I lost an opportunity to build allies to support me in the long term. In order to grow I had to be truly honest with myself: was it more important to be right every time or to build a group of allies who support my long-term goals and visions? It was one of the hardest lessons I had to learn to achieve a senior leadership position. But having learned it, I can honestly say that this “new” way of operating is ultimately a happier and more fulfilling position to be in. 

 

Beth Steinberg
SVP, People and Talent

Trust is the foundation of the strongest relationships, and Steinberg takes an active approach in building an honest and transparent connection with each member of her team.

 

How would you describe your leadership style?

I focus on building trust and relationships with my team as a foundation to do great work. This is a critical first step for effective leadership. Simple things like never skipping one-on-ones and knowing what is happening for people outside of work are important. 

I’m a leader who pushes people to meet their potential. Most people have insecurities, including me. You need your team to feel safe and secure, and part of doing that includes building a culture of psychological safety. People will make mistakes; this is how we all learn. I believe it is my job to show people what they are capable of and then get out of their way. I watch closely from the side to help pick them up if they stumble. 

I’m also a transparent leader. I work hard to share context on why decisions were made, and I like to share my long-term vision. I want my teams to work proactively — to balance the short term and the long term. 

 

Good leaders build authentic relationships that transcend roles and companies.

 

What experiences or lessons helped shape your leadership style throughout your career?

I haven’t always had great models of leadership. While this has been hard, I think it made me a better leader. I consciously avoid replicating some of the poor leadership techniques that I’ve had to work under over the years. Experiencing a combination of effective and ineffective leaders has shaped my leadership style.

I have always approached leadership first as a human being. I learned early on that providing support without removing responsibility is a great way to get the best out of others. My job as a leader is to get the very best out of people. To do that, you have to make them feel secure. You need to build trust and a relationship before you can give effective feedback. 

Additionally, when a leader values optics or personal success more than the success of the team and overall company, it’s obvious and disheartening. I’ve seen these traits get in the way of true leadership, and because of that, I always aim to put the success of my team before my own.


What advice do you have for others who may be struggling to define or own their leadership style?

Don’t let your ambition eclipse your principles. Being a leader is not about you; it is about making your team and the company successful. Vulnerability and self-awareness are critical for effective leaders. If people do not want to follow you, you need to figure out why. Remember that you are working with human beings, and there will be ups and downs. Don’t be afraid of naming the emotions. Clarity is critical; set the vision, give clear guidance, and provide support without removing responsibility. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. 

Learning to be a great leader takes time and work. It’s not magic. Give time and attention to your leadership. Leadership is a skill and craft and should be treated as such. It needs to be learned, practiced and reinforced. There is nothing more rewarding than seeing your team learn and grow. It has been the joy of my career to see former team members who now are senior leaders in companies.  

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