Hone your observation skills. You want to get promoted, but there are no women role models for you at the top. Can you imitate the men? Not exactly, as women are sometimes punished for the same behavior men are rewarded for. But you can identify what is working for the leaders you admire. Become an organizational anthropologist and hone your observation skills. What do good leaders do? When do they speak up? How do they conduct themselves with clients, coworkers, and other leaders? What skills do you need to polish to successfully perform those roles? Consider peers and step-ahead mentors (colleagues one or two steps ahead of you in their careers) who are both more available and approachable as resources, beyond just senior executives.
Focus on specific behaviors to emulate.
Focus on specific tasks or behaviors that you could realistically emulate. By identifying key behaviors and practices, you also become more systematic in the approaches you can experiment with to determine if they work for you.
Try out those behaviors you’ve observed and see how they feel. Part of leadership development is experimenting as you learn new skills and practice new ways to lead. Role models can serve as positive exemplars of behaviors for you to assess and potentially add to your repertoire
Get feedback on your effectiveness as you practice new skills. Feedback is essential for ensuring that your performance of new skills or behaviors is aligned with your own expectations as well as those of your colleagues in the workplace.
Go outside your workplace.
While you should certainly look within the workplace, it is not the only place you should be learning and connecting with role models. External role models can help you imagine new possibilities for your career, inspire you to experiment, and even provide insights into what works for them and why.
Once you incorporate some new skills and behaviors, you will be ready to learn from others. Continuous learning is an essential quality of good leadership. Take charge of learning from potential role models around you through this process of focused observation, experimentation, and feedback.
Pick someone who ignites your passions
Your role model should be someone who inspires you through her own actions, passion, drive and determination. Your role model should be someone who encourages you, directly or indirectly, to strive for more, chase your dreams and be a better version of yourself than you were yesterday. Not only should your role model guide you, she should excite you and ignite your fire of ambition.
Look at people within your prospective professions
By scouting out role models from within your prospective field, you can evaluate the choices they made, the steps they took that put them in the position they are currently in, and learn from them.
Look for someone who holds your values
When you have a role model who is making choices that reflect what you would do, you will be proud to tell other people that you have selected this person to be your role model.
Retain a sense of yourself
The purpose of a role model is to help shape you, not completely transform who you are. Pick out the best parts of your role model; her kindness, philanthropic tendencies, drive, passion, and so on, and apply those to your own life and own habits. You have a lot to offer the world, your prospective professions, bosses, friends, and eventually the people that you become a role model to.
Seek a mix of male and female role models.
It’s very valuable to have role models from both genders, because men and women have different strengths. Research shows that women tend to be good at communicating, nurturing and self-care. Men tend to be good at being independent and figuring out how to make their way in the world. We need to integrate both male and female strengths in order to be balanced and fully self-actualized human beings.
Attend networking events
Leadership conferences and conventions for your industry of choice are perfect hubs to hear various powerful voices in the field and gauge your interest. Don’t just pick a role model for the sake of picking one, but rather, find someone with whom you can relate and learn from their journey.
Contact them directly for assistance
If you discover a role model on the Internet or in real life, it is never a bad idea to reach out to them. Don’t expect a response — especially if they are pretty well-known. However, you never know what kind of relationship can manifest from your effort to connect. If you contact them digitally, you may foster a relationship that starts casual and ends up amounting to an in-person friendship.