How your ambition style impacts on your professional worth

When was the last time you analysed your career strategy and how your ambition style was impacting on both your personal and professional worth?

When it comes to ambition there are four different approaches to the way we tackle our career, big goals, and ambitious projects.


1. The Passenger (has a couple of categories):

  • the "failure to launch" variety who needs a bit of a push to get them motivated,
  • or perhaps someone who has experienced a redundancy, a forced resignation or a company going out of business leaving them feeling passive and uncertain.

2. The Climber – this approach is identifiable by a planned, methodical approach, not deviating from the plan, probably in a traditional career or profession.  Steady in style with few highs or lows in their career trajectory and has a clear goal in sight.  Professional worth? Steady, trustworthy, professional, does what they set out to do and will get to where they are going.

3. The Dreamer – reinforced by reality TV shows and the cult of celebrity. Identified by latent feelings of “waiting to be discovered” or "rescue me", or perhaps working diligently and conscientiously hoping to be noticed. This approach may not even have an end goal in sight other than get promoted and is always dreaming of something better. Professional worth? Considered passive and not great for lean in type projects, leadership potential or taking charge.

4. The Leaper – clearly identified by big reaches, stretches, shifts and with optional changes in direction, followed by periods of consolidation, only to be followed by another big leap. This strategy requires confidence, a growth mindset (as described by Carol Dweck in Mindset) and a degree of flexibility as long term plans are more broad brush strokes rather than specific goals. Benefits? Enables you to fast track as you need, remain agile, strategic, think outside the box and keep fully engaged. Also enables you to capitalise on great opportunities and know that it's not for ever and a day - just right now. Professional worth? Perceived as raw talent, hungry, ambitious, confident and great leadership material.

So where do you see yourself fit right now? 

This is a stunning moment in a woman’s life, when - after she has begun to move out, to expand, to raise her sights - she discovers that the rules have changed and she will no longer be rewarded for her compliance, as she has been, systematically, since she was a little girl.
— Colette Dowling, The Cinderella Complex: Women's Hidden Fear of Independence

On a serious note: research into the differences between male and female brains indicates that women can be more passive when it comes to ambition and success goals. In general, women operate in ways that result in us being more aware of riskless confident, more easily picking up on signals of negativity and the subject of negative unconscious bias if we display too much ambition or appetite for success.

Compounding these differences, a lack of meaningful recognition and support also contribute, with a recent Bain & Co report indicating why they believe professional women start to lose confidence and ambition mid career.

Instead, Bain suggests that women lack meaningful recognition and support from managers during the mid-level career period, when women crystalize their aspirations and build – or erode – their confidence. Bain & Co, Every Day Moments of Truth

In my experience of talking with clients, colleagues and others about their ambition and career management strategies, most leave things to luck, circumstance, or plans that someone else outlined years ago. If they are fortunate, workload, busyness and other responsibilities, don't erode ambition too much. 

However those who have had their “stunning moment” and are intent on fast tracking their career prospects, are now experiencing the benefits of the Leaper category - leaps, stretches and big moves, followed by periods of consolidation.

To make sure you remain agile, strategic, positioned well to capitalise on opportunities that present themselves,  check in on your strategy. Not only will this help you see if you’ve become stuck in the “waiting to be discovered” mode or are in a holding pattern, but will also enable you to correct course if necessary.

For successful and ambitious people a revisit of plans, aspirations, and career strategy is a regular feature, rather than a once in a blue moon event. Think about career management and planning as an essential part of your professional toolkit, right up there with your outcomes focused CV.  

Vive la révolution!  #ambitionrevolution


  • I am the creator of The Ambition Revolution – the science and art of amping smart and savvy.
  • I mentor busy professional women to ensure they remain  strategic, agile and focused on the bigger game.
  • I also work with organisations who are trying to increase the profile of women in leadership, but struggling to do so.
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