Stepping Up

Emily Warren Roebling was one of 12 children.  She was especially close to one of her older brothers who encouraged her educational pursuits.  During a visit with her brother, she met Washington Roebling, the son of the Brooklyn Bridge designer.  Washington was a Civil Engineer.  Emily and
Washington wed a year later.  Shortly after their marriage, much of their lives would change.

Emily and Washington traveled to Europe to study the use of caissons that would be required for the Brooklyn Bridge.  Shortly after their return, Washington’s father died after an accident and Washington became the chief engineer.  Then Washington became incapacitated when experiencing a decompression disease from rising too quickly after being underwater.

Emily was asked to become Washington’s project manager.  While she never studied civil engineering, Washington taught her the basics.  She had always been interested in Washington’s work, so her knowledge was easy to acquire.  Over time, those associated with the bridge saw Emily and Washington as two minds for the price of one.  When the bridge was completed, Emily was the first person to drive across the bridge.

After the bridge’s completion, Emily became active in women’s causes.  She traveled widely and was received in the seats of government in other nations.  Emily was especially involved in the fight against discrimination against women.  Her work on the Brooklyn Bridge was proof that women are fully capable of taking on roles that had been limited to men.

Many of us are asked to step up to take on roles that we may not be trained to do.  “It’s not my job” is never an appropriate answer.  We may have to acquire new knowledge.  We may need to deal with people at higher levels than we had experienced previously.  We will often need to project confidence when we aren’t confident.  Stepping up is one of those key moments in a career.  It’s also something that most of us will experience at least once in our career.

What’s the best preparation for stepping up?  There are several keys:

  • Seek out advice from those who have knowledge and experience you need.
  • Act with confidence but not rashly.
  • Don’t overreact to those who may challenge you.
  • Use the challenge to make changes that are opportunities and likely to be well received.
  • Manage the change in the peer-to-boss relationship gradually.

* * *

                “Every single person has leadership ability.  Some step up and take it.  Some don’t.  My answer was to step up and lead.”

– Wilma Mankiller (Cherokee Nation activist and Chief)

How To Use

Useful guides for incorporating messages into discussion.