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Women Rising as Leaders

GTL Video Cover Sally Helgesen Passionpreneur Publishing

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How writing a book changed Sally Helgesen’s career trajectory.

In the late 1980’s, Sally Helgesen was working in corporate communications. Being the observant person she is, she looked around her and noticed something about the companies she was working in. “What I noticed was that the companies I was working in did a very poor job of understanding the strategic value that women could bring and the potential women had as leaders,” said Sally, in an interview with Passionpreneur Publishing. “So, I decided that the best thing I could do would be write a book that would help organizations understand that.”

And so her first book was born. The Female Advantage: Women’s Ways of Leadership was published in 1990, and it took a critical, well-timed look at how they could lead, rather than how they needed to change and adapt.

Part of the beauty in this book was its timing. Societal expectations around women in the world of work were changing, and Sally’s book spoke into a void about how women could bring extraordinary value if companies learned to let women lead and not simply change to fit in.

Launching this book did something profound. In Sally’s own words, “it completely changed my career trajectory.”

“It completely changed my career trajectory”

“Because of [the book], I began getting calls from companies, at first in the US, but then all over the world,” says Sally. She found that, not only was her book getting a positive response, but she was being invited to deliver keynote addresses, work with businesses and organisations and more.

It was a pivotal stage in the authors life. “My entire career evolved over the last 32 years, evolved because I had written a book on a subject where the timing was good, and the message was distinctive.”

Hers was an experience shared by many authors who have delivered a book with a distinctive message into a market that is ready for it. At Passionpreneur, we like to say that being an author gives you authority. This was certainly seen in Sally’s career trajectory as doors opened for her, and the now nine-time author has shaped her career around that from 1990 until now.

The value of a book when establishing yourself as a thought leader

Sally’s journey into authorhood and the position of recognised thought-leader begs a question: is there value in executives writing a book?

While Sally recognises that time may be a challenge (an issue Passionpreneur Publishing has worked hard to solve through the “Guided Author” method), she does have some thoughts on the matter. “Certainly, for any woman who wants to identify herself as a thought leader, who has an aspiration to be a speaker and to appear publicly, speaking on behalf of what women can contribute, writing a book is the necessary first, the place to start,” says Sally. “So, I highly recommended to do that. And I think it’s something that more women should consider doing and jump in.”

What stops women from writing?

“I find that men and women both procrastinate on this, but I think that the ways that they will procrastinate can be different,” says Sally.  “For women, I think what’s most likely to get in the way is the overvaluing expertise (which is one of the habits that Marshall and I talk about in How Women Rise). They feel like there may be somebody else who has more expertise, or they’re not necessarily qualified, or they think “Why should I be the one to write about this?” And then also the perfection trap. If I can’t get it perfectly on the first go, then there’s no reason to do it. Whereas in fact, everything doesn’t need to be perfect the first time.”

“And then of course, those two habits of reluctance to claim your achievement and expecting others to spontaneously notice and value your contributions can get in the way. Because they’ll make women reluctant to really try to draw all that attention to themselves and say, “Oh, well, I don’t think that I’m any more expert than anybody else is and let’s give them a chance,” which is great. Giving others a chance is good, but really, if we can look at doing this in the framework not of achievement but of contribution – that’s really what we’re doing when we write a book.

A book is a contribution, not just an achievement.

With her drive to see women empowered, Sally has truly found a piece of gold. “We are making a contribution to the knowledge and the practice of the world. So, I think framing it in that way can make it easier and can make women, at least some of the ones I’ve worked with and coached, more comfortable, thinking of themselves as stepping up in that way.”

Why should you write? Because you have a contribution to make. Because someone may need to hear your story, your learnings and your expertise. Moving past the roadblocks Sally highlights in this article and in her broader work can truly be instrumental in empowering others, but also catapulting you into a new career trajectory – one that wouldn’t be possible without the book that opens the doors that would otherwise remain closed.

Start your journey doing the best you can. You will grow along the way.

As to the notion of that we don’t have to achieve perfection the first time around, does that mean we can just dump a book out into the market? Sally is quick to say no – start the best way you can. “I think we all want to start off with the aspiration to write the best possible book we can. If we can think of it as a contribution, think of it as something we are adding to the world, then every single one of us has had an experience, an insight, an encounter that has value for other people. And what writing a book really does gives us the largest potential platform with which to share that one valuable insight that we have.”

Sally is one of many subject matter experts who see the profound value in becoming an international author. We know it can be a daunting and time-consuming task. But it is our mission to create thought leaders and international authors who can spread passion and purpose. We have done the work to simplify this task and make it achievable for busy executives and thought leaders like you. It’s time to get started. Book your kick-off call today.

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Moustafa Hamwi
Moustafa Hamwi
Moustafa is an award winning author, speaker & coach; and is recognized as the world’s leading expert on Passionate Leadership. He has achieved in one year what took others 20 years to achieve in this industry to an extent he got nicknamed globally as The Passionpreneur.

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