When Kirstine Stewart joined Twitter two years ago to build their Canadian business, she went from being a high-profile TV executive to the first employee in the tech company's Toronto offices. That bold move paid off. Stewart led the Canadian operations to become one of the highest revenue-generating regions for Twitter. Her responsibilities, as a result, have expanded since last year to include overseeing Twitter's media activities and partnerships across North America in her role as vice president.
In her new book Our Turn, the Twitter executive, who worked her way up from junior assistant ("girl Friday") to executive vice-president at the CBC, says women are poised to lead in today's digital world.
"Fuelled by technology and shifting demographics, digital technologies are creating a new world order that demands a new style of leader - one with attributes and perspectives that make women natural front-runners," she writes.
This new world order requires a new skill-set: emotional intelligence, empathy, collaboration, ability to read situations and build consensus, listening and communication. Research shows that such "feminine" skills are prerequisite to leadership in the information age.
What can women learn from Stewart's career path? Here's some of her advice.
1. Forego the single dream job
Take chances in your career and stay open to opportunities. Stewart credits taking chances to her success rather than setting career goals. Her move to Twitter is one example. "If you lock yourself into a single dream job you're desperate to attain, you may close yourself off from something even grander." But self-confidence is key to pursue opportunities when they come along.
2. You don't have to be the boss to lead
Take advantage of opportunities to step up and show initiative at work and hence increase your visibility. Leadership is not restricted to the C-suite. You can lead in the way you work on a project, even if you're the only person on the team. Focus on being a leader in the moment - regardless of where you are in your career. "The more you act like a leader, the more you learn to be one. And the more you will be seen as one," writes Stewart.
3. Be yourself
While it's important to "lean in" to your career ambitions, you shouldn't have to act like a man or conform to the kind of leader others expect to get ahead in your career. When Stewart delivered her first TV schedule as a CBC executive, she was horrified when the media focused more on her appearance than the content of her presentation. But she realized that by being herself, she was signalling a new kind of leadership and inspiring other women along the way.
4. Share who you are with the world
Sharing who you are in the information age gives you a competitive edge and boosts your personal capital. "The more we share, the more we invite others to connect, and connections are key to building networks in the personal and professional spheres of our lives; networks, as we all know, are the breeding grounds of opportunity," writes Stewart. That includes having digital presence and being authentic and genuine in your interactions as that is key to forming connections. Her advice to people hesitant to join Twitter: "People are going to talk about you anyways - wouldn't you rather be part of the conversation?"
5. Ditch the superhero cape
Let go of the idea of "having it all." Quit trying to achieve work-life balance, which suggests that women can give equal importance and time to both their careers and personal lives. That leaves women trying to be superwomen, which leads to exhaustion and feelings of guilt. Rather, aim for work-life flow, where you can swing from one priority to the next, depending on the moment. "The key is to aim for a career in which you can earn the freedom to achieve work-life flow," writes Stewart.
6. Choose your own ladder
When it comes to success, there's no one size that fits all. "Altitude is not the only measure of success," cautions Stewart. You can choose to be a leader in whatever work you do, at whatever level, because 'leadership' is a mindset." Define your own career success. Sometimes that means not climbing the ladder or changing careers. "Personal happiness will only be yours when you choose your own ladder."