Katharine Cornfield post

How to Develop Leadership Outside of Work:

Guest Post by Katharine Cornfield

It’s not often that I find myself in a room full of scientists.  Honestly, I think the last time was high school chemistry class, and yes, I realize that is stretching the definition of ‘scientist’.

Fast forward a few years (let’s not count how many),  and I find myself part of the Women in Leadership - Women in Science and Engineering (WIL/WISE) project team working to develop a mentorship program for university-level women in Science Technology Engineering and Math (STEM) fields.  Needless to say, it has been an amazing window into a world I don’t know well.

Apparently, the path forward for the intrepid women who choose to move into STEM is fraught with challenges, from classroom culture and job options to professional development and advancement outside the lab.  But, with the right nurturing and support, there is plenty of reason for optimism and hope.  Enter WIL/WISE’s new mentorship program, designed to help tomorrow’s leaders get a head start today.

To launch the first session, each project lead had an opportunity to speak to the full group of participants. With nothing much to say on the subject of STEM careers, I shared a few reflections on what I believe to be the essential ingredients to developing leadership, regardless of professional path.

So, here are my top “to-do’s” for developing your leadership outside of work.

  1. JOIN:  Become a member of an industry or issue-based association, organization or community group.  Be bold and try the unexpected.  Expand your horizons beyond your usual subject areas of expertise.
  1. LEARN: Cover ground you haven’t considered.  Take advantage of any and all formal and informal opportunities to learn. Uncover how organizations work.  Unlock the secret to good marketing & communications.  Brush up your presentation skills.  Follow the money and learn finance.  Get comfortable with being a beginner.
  1. APPLY: Put yourself forward to speak at conferences or events. Apply for leadership programs.  Have your friends nominate you for awards.  Look for and apply to any opportunity that comes your way, and don’t wait to be noticed.
  1. CONTRIBUTE: Pick a cause or a favourite organization and volunteer your time.  Serve on a Board of Directors or a sub-committee.  Join a political party or community association.  Flex your good citizenship muscles.  While you’re at it, develop your skills and your network.
  1. PRODUCE: Make something. Publish a blog, take photos, or pen poetry. Buy a url and own your content. Build a body of work outside the office, and let it evolve in parallel to your professional career. Consider that someday, the two may intersect.
  1. CONNECT: Do not underestimate the power of your professional and personal network. Your classmates or colleagues today are the leaders of tomorrow.  Nurture your network, by always adding value, and stay in touch.  Together, you may change the world.

Katharine Cornfield is a small business owner and social entrepreneur; and is a member of the Women in Leadership –Ottawa executive team.  She believes cities should be vibrant, welcoming, inclusive places for people; that good citizenship means taking action; and that business can be a force for good.  Follow Katharine on Twitter @girlaboutOtown.