WSJ has a column by Carol Hymowitz:
As children, we don’t feel inhibited proclaiming that we want to be president or fire chief or a famous actress when we grow up.
But as adults we often hesitate to admit our ambitions, which usually require gaining both expertise and recognition. To advance from management to leadership positions, we know we must excel at our jobs and be rewarded for our efforts. But few of us feel comfortable bragging to bosses about our accomplishments or manipulating others for our own gain — and we’re turned off by colleagues who do.
“Some people hear the word ‘ambitious’ and immediately have negative thoughts of a ruthless person who crawls over others to get ahead,” says Brian Keane, chief executive of Boston-based Keane, an IT services company with 8,000 employees. But ambition is a necessary and positive quality “if you think of it as a commitment to doing one’s very best,” adds Mr. Keane, who describes himself as very competitive. There’s also nothing wrong with seeking recognition for one’s contributions, he believes, “as long as you never forget that no one can achieve high success without others. It’s almost always a team effort.”
He tries to gauge the ambition of prospective employees by inquiring about their achievements in sports, the arts or other activities. “I love recruiting people with high levels of competition,” he says, “If they’ve achieved something significant in athletics or music, I know they know what commitment, effort and sacrifice mean.”
The best time to assert and realize one’s ambitions may be during a crisis. “When things are going along just fine, inertia sets in and nobody wants to change or adopt your new ideas,” says Ms. Blanke. “In a crisis, people start to listen to each other, and sometimes it takes a crisis to step into your own power.”