Sally Helgesen: Breaking the Habits That Hold Women Back

What keeps talented, hardworking women from attaining positions of leadership? Yes, there are cultural and structural issues at play, but how can we put ourselves in a position to influence and shape those structures? How do women identify—and break—the habits that hold us back?

Sally Helgesen has 30-plus years of experience in the field of women’s leadership. As an author, speaker and consultant, she helps women recognize, articulate and act on their greatest strengths. Helgesen’s books include bestseller The Female Advantage, hailed as ‘the classic work’ on women’s leadership styles, and The Web of Inclusion, credited with bringing the language of inclusion into the business. She is a sought-after facilitator and keynote speaker for corporations, partnership firms and universities around the world, and Helgesen has consulted for the United Nations and led seminars at the Harvard Graduate School for Education and Smith College.

Today, Helgesen walks us through several of the habits discussed in her new book, How Women Rise, explaining the value in promoting our achievements and the danger in overvaluing expertise. She offers insight around setting manageable goals and engaging allies for support as well as letting go of judgement by adopting an ‘oh well’ approach to mistakes. Listen in as Helgeson describes how we can leverage our strengths as women and break the habits that hold us back!


Key Interview Takeaways

Be clear about your contributions and claim your value. To move up in an organization, women must find a comfortable way to promote their achievements.

Expertise will only get you so far. Mastering the details of the position you’re in now can make you indispensable in THAT role and prevent you from moving up! Don’t make the mistake of putting your job before your career.

Start with one habit. Choose one manageable goal to work on first; for example, you might make it a point to communicate more concisely in a weekly meeting.

Engage allies and ask for help. Women who recruit peer coaches and solicit feedback from others are much more successful than those who try to change habits on their own.

Adopt an ‘oh well’ approach. Let go of judgement—of yourself AND others.

Every problematic habit is rooted in a strength. Don’t overly react against your natural tendencies. Qualities such as conscientiousness, loyalty, modesty and concern for others are valuable; in fact, they got you where you are!

Connect with Sally Helgesen

Sally Helgesen’s Website

Sally Helgesen on LinkedIn

How Women Rise


How Women Rise: Break the 12 Habits Holding You Back from Your Next Raise, Promotion, or Job by Sally Helgesen and Marshall Goldsmith

The Female Vision: Women’s Real Power at Work by Sally Helgesen

The Female Advantage: Women’s Ways of Leadership by Sally Helgesen

The Web of Inclusion: Architecture for Building Great Organizations by Sally Helgesen

What Got You Here Won’t Get You There: How Successful People Become Even More Successful by Marshall Goldsmith and Mark Reiter

What Got You Here Won’t Get You There Seminar

Marshal Goldsmith’s Website

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