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Real Women, Real Leaders: Surviving and Succeeding in the Business World by Priscilla Shumway, Kathleen Hurley

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3 Takes Initiative

“There are three types of people in this world: those who make things happen, those who watch things happen, and those who wonder what happened.”

—Mary Kay Ash

As one of the competencies with the largest differences between men and women, taking initiative seems to be at the core of many women's encounters with leadership and success. This chapter explores how our Real Women have taken initiative in all areas of their lives, innovating and seeking opportunities that will facilitate success.

Taking initiative can be defined in a variety of ways:

  • “taking prompt action to accomplish objectives,
  • self-starting,
  • taking action to achieve goals beyond what is required,
  • being proactive,
  • thinking on your own feet,
  • taking advantage of opportunities,
  • taking charge,
  • getting things done on your own.”1

Taking initiative is demonstrated in actions as small as becoming captain of your high school cheerleading team, or as large as founding your own international non-profit. It can manifest through a philosophy of hard work, or knowing what you want and looking for opportunities to make that happen. In the everyday workplace, taking initiative is an act that takes place in a range of different styles and formats. The main actions involved in taking initiative are “responding quickly, taking independent action, and going above and beyond.”2

People who are adept at taking initiative are generally sought after within an organization, as they are the people who will go beyond their ...

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