3 Ways Executive Assistants Can Demonstrate Leadership

You know the value of what you do as an assistant, but how do you step out from “behind the scenes” and amplify this value to the broader organization? Beyond supporting leaders, by being in the Executive Assistant role, you are also a leader yourself. So what does an EA leader sound like and what can they achieve?

Keep reading to learn how you can find and use your voice, build critical leadership skills, increase your visibility, and make positive impacts on your organization.

How can Executive Assistants take their seat at the table?

In our recent Base Live panel at Admin Week Summit 2023, our expert panelists shared their tips and tricks for how Executive Assistants can take their seat at the table:

Watch the full video below or keep reading for the highlights from the conversation!

3 ways Executive Assistants can demonstrate their leadership

Here are the three biggest takeaways from our panel discussion. Got any to add? Join our Executive Assistant Community and share with assistants across the globe who are learning from one another and shaping the future of the EA role every day. 

Transform reactivity into proactivity 🏹

So much of the EA role winds up being reactive – that’s part of being in a support role. Many Executive Assistants even “fell into” this type of career, not necessarily following a pre-set path to get here on purpose. This can lead to waiting to be told what the road ahead looks like for their career. It may also result in needing to hear they’re valuable to their executive and the company, or assuming others within their organizations will build relationships with them as needed.

Instead, you can take a proactive approach beyond the day-to-day to define how you want to show up in this profession and direct your career and your role as a leader. One way to do this is proactive relationship building. As Mallory suggested, you could schedule intentional time with your executive’s direct reports and other key players to share what you’re bringing to the table beyond scheduling meetings. This is also a way to self-validate, and to provide others with insight into your skill sets and leadership that may lead to career expansion in the future.

Another way is to proactively build relationships with other Executive Assistants to see the various ways being an assistant can look. This will bring clarity for your specific WHY you’re in this role, which will lend itself to greater purpose, direction, and ultimately, leadership. Lindsay points out that this proactivity expands beyond networking transactionally. She encourages you to truly build connection and rapport with others instead of just seeking them out when you’re in need of a solution. These types of relationships may also lead to mentorship – another way you can both steward and develop your leadership as an EA.

Be resourced like a leader 🤝

In this type of support role, Executive Assistants are often the ones acknowledging and celebrating others, and providing insight. In order to lead well, you need to get this type of validation as well. If your executive isn’t the type to do this, again those relationships you’ve proactively built are an amazing resource. Build your hype team of other EAs or colleagues at your company who see and celebrate you. As Rowe mentioned on the panel, you could also consider formalizing this by creating a Board of Directors. These are people you lean on for support, celebration, or look to for guidance about your career.

Beyond validation, there are other ways Executive Assistants can be resourced in their leadership. For one, trust and respect between your colleagues and your executive are huge. This may look like colleagues knowing you’ll do what you say you’ll do, trusting you to manage your time well, and seeking your input on important decisions. Even more tangibly, if you’re an assistant demonstrating leadership, you also could expect to be well compensated, and to be included in bonus structures, stock options, or other financial incentives.

For your validation, trust, and compensation to be amplified, you need to clearly articulate you want a seat at the table, and to be specific about what you want to bring to a company, a team, and your relationship with your executive.

Increase visibility and impact 🔦

Since administration is a service oriented role, this has traditionally meant assistants should stay quiet, stay out of the way, and do what’s asked and nothing more.

The pendulum has somewhat swung the other way: Executive Assistants are encouraged to use their voice and take up space and be seen — and that’s certainly a viable option! — all assistants have the opportunity to create an impact and lead even if they aren’t the most outspoken.

You can create influence quietly, if you prefer. As Rowe shared, you can collaborate with someone who is leading more loudly and getting things done and influence that way. You can also bring new initiatives to light with careful preparation, demonstrating the impact of what you’re proposing on the business, leadership, culture, or even the bottom line through a well thought out business case without shouting about it.

Lastly, Mallory advocates that you can leave clues by your leadership — clues that will enable the assistant that comes after you to be even more set up for success than you were, and also to guide your executive to create an even better relationship with their next assistant or anyone they’re leading by the example and intention of the relationship you built together.

How Executive Assistants can be more proactive and visible through technology

If you’re an EA looking for technology to help you be more proactive and increase your visibility and impact, we built the Base platform just for you. Our all-in-one workspace for Executive Assistants gives you one go-to place to organize, communicate, and take action. Get a demo of Base and see what we’re all about.

You can also check out our resources for EAs, learning and development programs, and job opportunities.

Written by Natalie Turner

Natalie is a content strategist, seasoned facilitator, certified leadership coach, and formerly the Executive Assistant to the CEO and President at Base. She believes in the power of supportive relationships and rituals, both personal and professional, to change individual lives and therefore the world. She explores these concepts in Base workshops, on the Courageous Help podcast, and in her own entrepreneurial pursuits.