Celebrating Women Leaders
In honor of International Women’s month, it’s time to shine a spotlight on the transformational impact of women leaders. Women are paving the way for a style of leadership that is confident, authentic, and highly effective. Catalyst reports that the share of women in senior management is increasing incrementally. We still have a long way to go for women’s equity in salary and in leadership roles, but the comprehensive picture looks more promising.
Remarkable women are leading in transformative ways. Leader is not just a job title – it’s a set of strengths and a professional code of conduct that women are very well suited to put into practice. Organizations are actively seeking women for leadership roles and women entrepreneurs are starting businesses at a faster rate than any other time in history.
The Most Important Leadership Traits
Gallup identifies the most important leadership traits as follows, which women leaders are embracing and putting into practice.
Trust – honesty, clarity, and behavioral predictability. Leaders must adopt the trait of trustworthiness and prioritize it as one of their most important skills — because without it, people won’t feel as confident to follow.
Compassion – caring about your followers holistically while seeing them as more than just their ability to perform. Compassionate leaders should be willing to share their own struggles and accept the same honesty from others.
Stability – creating space where people feel psychologically safe, like they can depend on you to answer their questions, hear their ideas, and address their concerns. Communication is key. Stability puts emphasis on the current moment, keeping people grounded in the here and now — knowing they can count on you.
Hope – deals with the future. People need to see that their leaders have a clear direction in mind. They want to have faith that their leaders are guiding them in the right direction. When leaders communicate hope, they can help followers feel more enthusiastic about the future.
Emotional Intelligence Rules
Simply defined by the Initiative One Leadership Institute, Emotional Intelligence (EQ) is the ability to identify and manage your own emotions as well as recognize the emotions of others and groups. This path between feeling and reason is something women do particularly well. EQ is a predictor of professional success and personal excellence, according to Mind Tools, it also affects an organization’s profitability and performance.
Women have heightened emotional intelligence because they practice empathy to understand what others see, think, and feel. They understand and embrace differences and diversity of thought leads to stronger teams. A savvy leader reads the people dynamics, and then assesses the needs involved and manage the situation effectively. Women are also adept at active listening and validate the individual speaking with their full focus and attention. They know the importance of listening with your ears and body language.
Prioritize Developing Others
While many strong women leaders are lifelong learners always eager to add new skills, experiences, and competencies to their professional toolkit – they also focus on developing others. A mentor taught me to ask this question regularly to help develop individuals on my team. How can I help you be more successful in this role? Coaching and developing others to play to their strengths is gratifying but the reverse mentorship and teachable moments are equally impactful to the leader in charge.
Communication Is Everything
Savvy women leaders know they must customize how they communicate with everyone to honor their needs and personality. But there are 4 pillars of communication that women use successfully to deliver a message, which come from women’s leadership expert, Monique Tallon
- Ask for Input – make room for ideas from your team and collaborators.
- Stay Open – be willing to listen to all ideas to create an environment of inclusiveness. You may not act on every idea but your willingness to validate ideas by listening matters.
- Let it Roll – don’t take it personally, develop a thick skin and know that not everybody will agree. That’s OK.
- Be Humble – don’t let your pride get in the way of good ideas coming from others. Be willing to admit mistakes and fail forward publicly so others can learn from your recovery and resilience.
Smart women leaders ask for help. One person rarely accomplishes great things alone, but a team can accomplish extraordinary things together.
Women Get Better with Age
Gender and age bias is real and a significant hurdle for many women, but I argue that women over the age of 40 are not past their prime. They’re just getting started and have much more ahead of them than they do behind them. This message was celebrated by Female One Zero honoring extraordinary global women who are disrupting, re-inventing, and making an impact, over the age of 40.
Throw the Ladder Down
Women are creative problem solvers motivated by challenges, but they are also resilient when things don’t go as planned. They handle crises with compassion and patience and can check their ego at the door when the going gets tough and they need to roll up their sleeves and do whatever it takes to solve the problem.
I’m not suggesting that women leaders are better than men, however they lead differently. I also know that all women leaders are not exemplary simply because they are women. I do believe we need more women in leadership roles to strike a better balance in the career world. We need to train and develop women, so they can become role model leaders.
According to the US Census Bureau, women make up 58% of the US population. They also make 80% of purchasing decisions and reflect most consumer interests. Women are no longer the niche market – women are THE market and it’s an equally exciting time for women in the career world.
I ask all women to support a fellow woman in her pursuit of leadership. Throw the ladder down, across, and sideways to help another woman find her way. To our male counterparts – thank you for your allyship, sponsorship, mentorship, and support in recruiting, retaining, developing, and advancing women leaders. We are all in this together and empowering more women leaders will lead to diverse organizations that can make catalytic and positive change in the world.