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Several of my coworkers and I joined over 250 attendees at the PACT Foundation Breakfast two weeks ago. An impressive panel of female executives engaged in a spirited and inspiring discussion about leadership, diversity and innovation at women-led enterprises. While their insights focused on women, many of their recommendations are applicable to all professionals—men, women and other diverse groups. The panel included: Jayatri Das, Ph.D., Chief Bioscientist at The Franklin Institute; Lisa McCann, Principal at Vanguard; Denice M. Hasty, SVP of Product Management and Marketing at Comcast Business; and Adele Oliva, Co-Founder and Partner at 1315 Capital and Managing Partner at Quaker Partners. Jennifer Morgan, President of SAP North America, moderated.

PACT Foundation Breakfast

WAFFLES AND WISDOM at the PACT Foundation Breakfast. L. to r.: Jennifer Morgan of SAP, Lisa McCann of Vanguard, Denice M. Hasty of Comcast, Jayatri Das of The Franklin Institute, and Adele Oliva of 1315 Capital and Quaker Partners. Image: PACT Foundation.

I took away three key messages related to leadership and career advancement—the importance of EQ, mentoring and networking.

The most thought-provoking discussion focused on the pace of change—how it demands constant innovation and leaders who can take the organization to the next level. What leadership traits are most important? Intellect, confidence and the ability to influence. Communication, the ability to delegate successfully, think strategically and get it done. And a growth mindset to stay focused on the future. Most importantly, was EQ (or emotional intelligence quotient) over IQ. Considering the diverse education, background, career paths, roles and industries the panelists represent, it was interesting that, hands down, they all agreed EQ was more important than IQ.

In his 1996 book Emotional Intelligence, author Daniel Goleman suggested this same premise. “The concept of emotional intelligence has had a strong impact in a number of areas, including the business world. Research has found that individuals with strong leadership potential also tend to be more emotionally intelligent, suggesting that a high EQ is an important quality for business leaders and managers to have.”

Successful leaders also recognize something that Das shared (and something I firmly believe)—“You must be the CEO of your own career—no one is going to do it for you.” Desire to be bold and take risks. To me, that also means seeking out your own professional development and training, and not being afraid to stretch outside your comfort zone. Das pointed out that it also includes identifying and targeting a mentor. It’s your responsibility to identify one and get them to help you. At the same time, don’t forget about the flip side—the responsibility of being a good mentor. It’s important to give the same encouragement and advice to both men and women. And, women should not only help women, but everyone equally.

“You must be the CEO of your own career—no one is going to do it for you.” –Jayatri Das, Ph.D., Chief Bioscientist at The Franklin Institute

The power of connections and networking was a final theme addressed. Oliva shared words of wisdom her boss once told her, “Lunch at your desk is a wasted opportunity.” At one point in her career, as part of her development program, she was tasked with eating out twice a week, which included going to events, one-on-one lunch meetings or coffee talk networking. And she suggested a novel concept—consider picking up the phone and calling people… no one else does! Networking today, not only on social networks like LinkedIn, but in person, is critical to building relationships among peers and other executives to help you stay connected and in touch with current industry trends. Throughout my career, I have called networking contacts for vendor recommendations, advice on specific projects, insights into organizations where they have worked, and introductions. A referral or advice from someone you know and trust goes a long way and is an invaluable door opener.

The panel itself provided excellent examples of how you can take control of your career and become a strong leader in any industry just by hearing the impressive track records and career paths of each panelist. It’s refreshing to have such role models of successful, female leaders. And, I appreciated the healthy reminder to stop working through lunch at my desk!

The PACT Foundation (a 501 c 3 charity) is focused on STEM-based initiatives as well as raising awareness and support for women entrepreneurs in high-growth technology and life science companies in partnership with AWE Ventures – Powered by Ben Franklin Technology Partners. The PACT Foundation Breakfast is one of many signature events for the organization.

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