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Being a Leader Regardless of Your Rank: Torch Talk Podcast

Caroline Dowd-Higgins is the Vice President of Career Coaching and Employer Connections for the Ivy Tech Community College system. With 20 years of career and professional development experience, Caroline authored the book and maintains the blog: This Is Not the Career I Ordered. Her podcast, Your Working Life was awarded one of the Best Career Podcasts of 2017, 2018 and 2019. And her TEDxWomen talk about reframing failure and defining success on your own terms is available on YouTube.

We talked to Caroline about her unusual career path and her advice about leadership development in our latest episode of the Torch Talk podcast. You can listen to the full conversation here.

Changing Careers after Opera

Caroline used to be a professional opera singer for 10 years both nationally and internationally. After her music career, she had to reinvent herself to establish a successful career.

She started as a school counselor and through promotions and growth on her path, she became a professional career coach. Her career as an opera singer has influenced her career as a coach an speaker, and has helped her with public speaking and captivating an audience.

To Be A Leader, Have Empathy

Women have an incredible ability to be leaders because of their empathy, Caroline said. The ability to put yourself in someone else’s shoes is the classic definition of empathy. That really resonates with Caroline and is a quality she’s trying to embrace in herself.

Related to empathy, women also often have a strong ability to see diverse perspectives. Having a leader who can welcome diverse viewpoints is also extremely important to promote diversity in the workplace and welcome all different experiences.

What’s Your Purpose?

As a coach, Caroline often talks to her clients about autonomy and purpose. What’s the work that you do that aligns with the mission of the organization? It’s up to us and our leaders to constantly make ourselves and our colleagues aware of our purpose and identify the value we bring to this work.

Throughout your career, you should always be asking yourself: does this work honor my need for meaning and purpose? The answer to this question may change throughout your career, and that’s okay. But you should still always keep it in mind.

Manage Up and Manage Down

Being a good leader involves checking in and showing empathy and understanding for the people you manage. But you also need to prioritize checking in and communicating with your manager. We all have a responsibility to tell our boss about our “wins” and the things that are going well– make your successes known!

Caroline suggests an exercise she calls “Manage Up.” Every week, send an email to your boss telling them what’s going well, and what strengths you’ve been developing.

Now you have a record of all the great work you’ve done and the progress you’ve made. Caroline been doing it for decades and multiple bosses have appreciated it. It’s also useful to have a weekly record to track your progress in your career.


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