Home Newsmakers Leaders Confident Leadership Comes Through Planning, With an Assist From Friends

Confident Leadership Comes Through Planning, With an Assist From Friends

Tara Capalbo in red jacket outside talks about confident leadership
Tara Capalbo

In the 18 years since Tara Capalbo first joined AbbVie, previously Allergan, she has distilled three key lessons of confident leadership.

Capalbo is the general manager for glaucoma and ocular surface diseases. She started her career here in a marketing role in the eye care division and worked her way through various marketing roles on both the consumer and professional side across different therapeutic areas. Two years ago, the opportunity opened to return to the AbbVie eye care segment to oversee the commercial team.


“What I advise when I’m mentoring younger women is, first, the importance of knowing yourself and what you’re uniquely good at.” She suggests using an assessment tool, such as StrengthsFinder. “It’s also important to know those areas where you are not as strong-–not because you have to master them all but to make sure they don’t derail you.”

Her second tip is to be clear about your goals. “Have those laid out. Write them down. Life will get in the way, but if you remind yourself that this is where you want to get to, it can be easier to move the pieces around when the time is right,” she says.

Capalbo keeps Sheryl Sandberg’s Lean In on her bookshelf. “I love how she talks about the need to lean in–even if you don’t know exactly how you’re going to do the job, or how you’re going to juggle family and the job- don’t excuse yourself- take the chance- you will likely surprise yourself, you will be successful and then you’ll be able to ask for the flexibility you need and pave the way for others.


Tara Capalbo and four members of her family and black dog on a beach.
Tara Capalbo and her family

These two tips combined can help women identify areas where they may want to rely on some help versus spinning the wheel. She acknowledges that earlier in a career, money may be too tight to hire help, but even online grocery shopping can be a huge time saver.  “Look at your schedule or task list each day and determine which things do not bring you joy and see if any of those things can be outsourced. We take on an inordinate amount of tasks. Working moms are dealing with this mental load,” she says.

For example, she loves to drive her kids to school. “That’s a luxury, and when I have the time to do that, I do.” Being able to keep those treasured moments as part of her routine allows her to stress less about the car rides she’s not a part of.


In fact, that leads to her third point: cultivate your tribe. “It’s really important to have a support system. My husband is a huge supporter of my career and I have a group of strong female leaders that are my tribe. Wee offer each other morale support, a place to vent when we’re frustrated by gender biases in the workplace, daily balancing (or lack thereof), or we just need a vote of confidence or some advice on how to deal with professional or personal challenges

Because these women, some of whom were early career role models to her, are or have been in similar situations, it’s a great reminder to give yourself grace, she says. “I’m not a perfect boss, leader, mom, spouse or friend, but I’m so grateful to be all of these things and try to enjoy each aspect of my life as much as I can. My tribe helps ground me when my kids lay on the guilt trip when I’m traveling or when I need some perspective  What we are doing is tough, and it’s not always going to be perfect. It’s messy- but it’s so worth it.”


Capalbo says she’s been honored to be able to help other women in their careers. “At higher levels of an organization, there are more men in those positions and so it’s incredibly important to have advocates ‘in the room’- whether they be males or females,” she says. While men are generally evaluated based on potential, women are evaluated based on past performance.  She wants to be the advocate in the room that is recommending women for roles, sharing their potential. Her best advice is this: “Lean into your strengths and have confidence in the skill set that you can bring to the table. Bring other women to the table. Let passion, hard work and intellectual curiosity prevail.”


AbbVie, previously Allergan, was a platinum sponsor to the 2023 Women’s Leadership Conference hosted by Women In Optometry. Read more about that event here. The company is a founding sponsor of the annual event.

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