I always felt leadership came naturally to me. Since young, I’ve taken any (and every!) opportunity to lead that came my way. Even if I wasn’t handed opportunities, I sought them out and seized them. I have been the Class Chairman, and the President of my house’s Sports Club, Reading Programme, Computer Club, School Drama Club and you name it!

I was the “Monica” amongst my own friends. The often ambitious and sometimes overachieving one. Believe it or not, I would print my own certificates for being the “best” at things! Could I BE anymore Monica?

I would even volunteer in school and lead in activities that I didn’t necessarily have the skillset or know-how. My ethos was to land the opportunity first and figure it out later.

This trait continued well into my career. If I wanted to do something, I took charge. This kind of demeanour worked with some bosses and didn’t with others. I felt that my ambition perhaps threatened them. I also realised soon enough that you couldn’t just rely on your manager to manage your career progress for you. When I hit roadblocks in situations like these, I pivoted. I saw opportunities to grow, changed course and spread my wings elsewhere. I feel lucky to have found my home at GPC with a supportive boss who encourages me in every way.

But my point in all this is that we need to break the stigma surrounding women who society sees as “overly ambitious”. I see ambition as my chance in life to be better, to achieve greater heights and progress. Although I have received disapproval for having this quality and not staying in “my lane” in the past, I have now come to celebrate it. In fact, it is something I like most about myself. It is no surprise that I describe myself as Unapologetically Fe!

I want to turn the conversation surrounding women like me from critical to constructive. We need to instead focus on how this ambition can help the business.

So, if you’re out there not-so-unapologetic about being ambitious like me, I want to highlight 4 tips I’ve learnt to help you “own the room”:

1.  To be a leader, you first need to know that you want to lead.

The intention is key! Go seize that opportunity and stake your claim to being a leader. You don’t need anyone’s permission to be a leader. So don’t wait for it.

2. You don’t need formal authority to lead.

You can lead without having a formal leadership role. Don’t be afraid to speak up and make your ideas heard, even if it’s not officially your “role”.

You have to influence those around you and build genuine relationships with them, so they respect your opinion even when you have no formal place to weigh in on a topic.

3. The best leaders win trust, inspire, and empower people.

As a leader, your main job is to serve others. Think about how you can add value. Aside from the work you do, put thought into how you can be helpful to your team.

Being a leader is also about inspiring and driving people to do their best work without demanding respect. Strive to bring the best out of people. Give credit when due, give kudos and encouragement. Also, don’t forget to provide critique and feedback when needed. You don’t need to be a people pleaser.

4. Of course, you need to perform!

It goes without saying that your ambition needs to be backed by solid work. When you want to progress in your career, it helps tremendously if you are already performing well. This will give you credibility, allowing you to earn your peers’ and superiors’ trust.

As much as you set the vision, you need to set a good example. Be a doer, be hardworking, pay attention to the minor details, and practice what you preach. You need to build a good reputation as a leader people respect and want to follow and emulate.

Finally – don’t ever apologise for being ambitious – especially if you’ve put the hard work in to get to where you are!