Five lessons from fearless female leaders to turbocharge your career

27 Feb 2024 · 3 min read
From taking time to reflect on your journey to changing course as you evolve, these tips from Philip Morris International’s Women in Leadership event can inspire others to shape their futures and achieve their goals.
Dr Moira Gilchrist, Vice President, Strategic and Scientific Communications, Philip Morris International

Written by

Dr. Moira Gilchrist, Chief Communications Officer, Philip Morris International

Three women talking in an office

So much can change in a decade. I vividly remember attending Philip Morris International’s (PMI’s) inaugural Women’s Talent Forum 10 years ago. Although it delivered plentiful sources of inspiration and motivation, it was an experience that pales in comparison to the recent PMI Women in Leadership event I joined.

There, I sat transfixed as the program’s cohort shared their career journeys, personal aspirations, and development plans.

It was less about me imparting my leadership learnings and advice, and much more about picking up fresh insights into the quality of our female talent rising through the ranks.

Dr. Moira Gilchrist, Chief Communications Officer,
Philip Morris International

I walked away with a spring in my step, feeling energized, excited for the future, and incredibly proud of the distance we’ve travelled in developing our employees.

This group of fearless female leaders demonstrated admirable self-awareness and confidence in the traits and practices they’re incorporating into their leadership styles.

Here are five key lessons from the many I took away:

1. Take the driving seat: Of course, we can’t control every aspect of our lives—but we all have the power to shape outcomes, especially when fueled by our ambitions. So, it’s important to take time to reflect on your journey to date and determine where you want to head next. Keeping a firm grip on the steering wheel of your career will dramatically increase your chances of reaching your desired destination. But remember: Career trajectories are never linear; you must be prepared to adjust your itinerary to achieve your goals.

2. Be authentic: The “real you” will always be your greatest strength. Pretending to be someone you’re not is both draining and counterproductive. Even though the easier option may be to take a chameleon-like approach and blend into the crowd, this is one area where the “fake it till you make it” mentality isn’t fit for purpose. Embracing your true self will always serve you best and help you to stand out from the rest.

3. Embrace change: When I compare the person I was at the beginning of my career to who I am today, I realize my preferences, priorities, and what fulfills me have evolved. This is the same for everyone. Therefore, remain open to new interests, challenges, and what resonates with you most in the present. You don’t have to follow the same path you were on yesterday. If there’s a new direction you want to take, grab your steering wheel and make a turn.

4. Don’t shy away from shortcomings: Whilst the notion of perfection is a known fallacy, many of us are still reluctant to acknowledge our weaknesses. Stepping out of your comfort zone and addressing your shortcomings can be challenging, but overcoming these hurdles will prove highly rewarding. Simply recognizing knowledge gaps and weaknesses is the critical first step toward resolution, opening doors to development plans, improvement, and growth. And don’t ever be afraid to ask for help. Having the self-knowledge and awareness to know when to lean on the strengths of others makes us all better together.

5. Take time to consider your response: Remember, the kneejerk emotional reactions we experience on the inside to certain triggers and situations don’t have to determine our long-term outlook. For every adverse moment, you have the power to decide your response. Where possible, choose excitement over anxiety, acceptance over frustration, and determination over disappointment. Positive mindsets will largely lead to positive outcomes.

As you craft your unique and authentic leadership style, never forget to lean on the advice and perspectives of others. In any good company setting, we should all aspire to help one another reach our goals—to benefit both individual career trajectories and, in turn, our overarching business objectives.

That’s why I find it such a privilege to play my own small part in developing the aspiring female leaders of today—and to apply their insights to my own journey.

Of course, gender equality is a marathon, not a sprint. But what I’m hearing and learning from this next generation confirms that, for all the work that remains ahead, we are most definitely gaining ground.