At this week’s Intelligent.ly Exchange, we were thrilled to bring in Sydney Atkins Mason, Investment Advisor at Goldman Sachs and founder of Synergy Inc. Sydney is truly a Renaissance woman; she has sailed professionally in Europe, won two Women’s Lacrosse NCAA Championships, taught high school biology, and became a CEO when she founded (and later, sold) Synergy Inc.– a sports-focused leadership development program for youths– all by the age of 21.
So how did she do it all? Her energy and zest for life’s curveballs definitely play a role, but she attributes her success to overcoming fear, building the right team, and having a Personal Board of Directors.
Deal with your fears
As a young CEO, Sydney admitted that she made a ton of mistakes, but she grew in spite of these challenges, because she kept her goal in mind. As Sydney said, you can’t sail right into the wind. Sometimes life doesn’t make it easy to progress toward your mark. You’ll need to take risks as a leader, and that can be terrifying, but as long as these risks are optimizing velocity toward your goal, they’re risks worth taking.
Know yourself, know your team
For Sydney, building the right team was the biggest challenge of being a new leader. She asked herself, “How do you know who you need when you don’t know who you are?” She had to become very self-aware about her own strengths (and growth opportunities) in order to determine who could supplement, not complement, her own style and skills to create the strongest, most diverse team. Success is not defined the same way for every person, and each team member has different values that motivate them to do their jobs. Your team can’t meet their true potential unless you are able to fully understand and support them.
Personal Board of Directors
No one is successful in isolation. Sydney argues that a successful leader needs three specific valuable relationships:
Coach: A coach provides a working relationship where there are “no stupid questions.” Everything is valid, even questions about where to hang your coat and find pens.
Mentor: A mentor will never dole out the same piece of advice to two different people; mentorships are reciprocal relationships in which the mentee evolves over time.
Sponsor: Sponsor relationships are linear, and the sponsor helps the sponsee achieve career success. The most important part? Pay it forward and become someone else’s sponsor!
Stay tuned for more about the building your own Personal Board of Directors!
Her last piece of advice: Know what you want before you take your first step. People won’t follow you if you don’t know where you’re going.
Content & Community Specialist