From CEO to Assistant: Leadership Begins with You

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By Tatiana Sehring

Career performance and leadership development are intriguing topics to me both as a team leader and for my own professional growth. I’ve always been driven to take on challenging roles, to advance my education, and to positively impact the lives of my colleagues and team. Personal aspirations aside—I’ve seen a rapid evolution in how corporate environments are changing to meet the expectations of more aware and highly-informed customers. In this information age when customers have instant line-of-sight into a company’s culture and leadership decisions, business performance is now interminably linked to corporate behaviors at all levels.

In other words, leadership begins with you.

Don’t believe me? Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer’s surprise internal memo to telecommuting employees banning work-at-home not only sent shockwaves through her company, it instantly sparked a national debate on remote-work prohibition. How Yahoo will fare due to Mayer’s bold directive will remain under a microscope for some time to come. Though Yahoo and Mayer are at a crossroads, she’s on path to building a leadership legacy that is closely linked to the company’s image.

It’s a path forged by other leaders pinpointed for their ability to make their company shine like Apple’s Steve Jobs, Google’s Larry Page, and Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh. These leaders built reputations that are as prominent as the companies they’ve led. They’re consistently featured in a variety of media that typically doesn’t showcase only products and services. It’s much more than that. They share compelling stories about tangible organizational values that fuel innovation and success but aren’t focused solely on the bottom line. They’ve built devoted cultures that are inclusive of the lives of their employees and of their consumers alike.

In the case of Zappos, Hsieh strives to empower employees at every level as part of Zappos Family Core Values. Take a look at what Hsieh's company is up to for some inspiration. Think about the people in your organization who show real leadership skills every day. Perhaps the administrative assistant inspired the team to follow a new best practice at work. Maybe a coworker inspired others to join routine workouts and build camaraderie. Perhaps someone you know decided to support a noble cause, without prior experience, and has successfully created a large support network. Think about your own leadership role and development.

These are all examples I’ve seen in my own organization and each one proves to me that impactful leadership can happen at any level. So when it comes to topics about leadership development, I encourage you to never feel as though you’re not part of this broader conversation that affects us all. Whether you’re a CEO or an individual contributor, anyone can lead and make a difference in the workplace. It’s a simple matter of making a conscious choice!

(Tatiana Sehring is the Director, Corporate & Strategic Relationships at American Public University System. She has over ten years of combined experience in strategic partnerships, business development, and marketing in a variety of industries including higher education, human capital management, environmental services, sustainability, hospitality, retail, government contractors, information technology, professional services, and non-profits. At APUS, she has developed long-term relationships with key industry and corporate partners. Currently, she also represents the university as a thought leader in a variety of speaking engagements and articles across industries.)