Getting a corner office isn’t just about accomplishments and competence. It’s about being a leader by instilling a sense of self-worth in your employees.

Do you read Success Magazine? Next to PM360 it is my favorite periodical. I read it cover to cover every month. The cover story of one of their recent issues posed an interesting question: “Can You Get to the Corner Office?”

Pharma marketers have a good chance of making it to the corner office. Bill Steere, retired CEO of Pfizer, began his career in sales, but moved to marketing early on. Pharma marketing is one of the best ways to get to know the business and industry.

While your marketing skills may put you on the fast track, it takes more than that to get to the corner office. You also have to hone your leadership skills and one of the most important leadership skills is often overlooked: Developing the self-esteem of the people who work for you and helping them feel good about themselves.

Self-esteem and high performance are directly related. People can’t do consistently good work if they don’t like themselves or feel good about their work. To be a successful leader, you have to seize every opportunity to enhance each employee’s feelings of self-worth.

When I was young and in one of my first jobs, I had a boss whose favorite saying was “I’m going to give you the opportunity to fail.” He trotted out this statement any time he was lukewarm about a proposal I made. I always thought of this as “Pontius Pilate Leadership.” He would let me go ahead with my idea—but he made it very clear that if things didn’t work out, I was on my own. He didn’t want to be engaged with me and with what I was trying to do.

At that point, I knew I was on my own—I wasn’t going to get any help from him if things didn’t go well—and my confidence was shaken. I began to question my judgment and myself. After all, he was my boss. If he didn’t like my idea, maybe it wasn’t so good to begin with.

But it wouldn’t have taken much for my boss to send me a completely different message. If he had said, “I’m going to give you the opportunity to succeed,” I would have felt that I could count on him for help if I ran into a problem or got in over my head. And, I would have felt a lot better about myself.

Think about it. When your boss gets behind one of your ideas, I bet you feel pretty good about both the project and yourself. You start the project with a sense of excitement that can carry you through some of the difficult times you might encounter along the way. You’re more likely to succeed because you begin the project with high self-esteem.

And what about when you’re the boss? When you help someone else feel better about him or herself, you end up feeling better about yourself. And the people you helped are in a better position to succeed and to help others.

Remember this important leadership lesson as you begin your trek to the corner office. Help people feel good about themselves and you’ll create a committed workforce—one that will help you move steadily forward to achieve great things.


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