15 Feb 5 Leadership Strategies for Women Leaders
With the world evolving and gender disparities slowly diminishing, more and more women are pursuing their dreams with courage and enthusiasm. In fact, some are leading companies at present, while many others are aspiring to do the same someday. This is the reason why being aware of leadership strategies for women is so important. Now, you might wonder why they are necessary, given how far women have already come from those days when they were widely considered to be weaker than men, physically, socially, culturally and economically. After all, today, they can do it all, from flying a rocket and fighting war enemies to managing their own businesses. However, they still have a long way to go before they can break that proverbial glass ceiling.
So, before you ask ‘what are the leadership strategies that work best for women’, take a look at the challenges they face on the road to becoming a leader:
- While many women work hard to earn leadership positions, they are often ignored by the management, owing to pre-existing biases or assumptions.
- A woman who enjoys the same position as a man in a company, and also bears an equal burden, gets paid less, usually.
- More often than not, women who aspire to become leaders don’t get the chance to become a part of influential networking or lack enough support or sponsorship.
- On an everyday basis, women often don’t get the credit for the work they do, especially if male teammates or supervisors are involved. Even if a woman employee comes up with a bright idea, it either gets stolen or she doesn’t get the chance to express her thoughts in meetings, thanks to frequent interruptions or gender-based disregard.
Hence, for a woman to evolve into a powerful leader, having the right degrees, knowledge or skill set is not enough. You need to be aware of these 5 woman leadership strategies.
1. Learning to have difficult conversations
Women leaders need to master the art and skill of difficult conversations
Whether you wish to bring about change in a process, do something innovative, address product issues, or provide feedback to a junior employee, conversations can get tough. However, acing them with elegance and intelligence will shape you into the leader you want to be. While leadership programs can help you with that, here are 4 tips to get you started for now:
- Decide where you want to have the conversation – in a casual setting or a formal one. Will it be easier to handle in a café or in a meeting room? Consider the nature of the person involved while taking this call.
- Make sure you know what the real issue is that you want to discuss. Get to it as soon as possible without much preamble. This will send the message that you are confident, someone who values time, and decisive – qualities that define a leader.
- Have an action plan handy, so that the problem you discuss can be followed by a solution. Figure out beforehand about the kind of help you can offer. But make sure that the other person understands the role he or she needs to play to resolve the issue.
- The importance of strategic leadership also lies in the fact that it teaches you to maintain confidentiality when it comes to difficult conversations. This will help you earn the trust of colleagues and those who report to you, and reap better results.
2. Overcoming imposter syndrome
Women leaders can overcome imposter syndrome through connecting to their accomplishments and strengths deeply. Support from a mentor or coach can help in this.
Do you ever get the feeling that you are not ready for a better career path or don’t deserve recognition even though you have successfully achieved your goals? It’s known as Imposter Syndrome and almost 70% of people experience it. This includes both men and women, mind you. Luckily, women leadership programs teach you how to deal with it.
Now, in case of women, the impact of this syndrome can be more severe, because the society usually expects them to handle it all perfectly, both at work and at home. This exerts undue pressure, compelling women to believe that they are not enough. This feeling stops them from exploring the right opportunities, be it exciting projects, coveted promotions or leadership roles.
Here’s how you can identify whether you are suffering from the imposter syndrome:
- You feel you are not smart, qualified or able enough.
- You feel as if you are a fake and cannot accept admiration.
- You are apprehensive of the fact that others might spot your inefficiency or shortcomings.
- You believe that your success has more to do with luck than hard work or talent.
Since overcoming the imposter syndrome is one of the leadership strategies for women, here are some tips that can help:
- Assess what you are feeling and figure out whether it’s imposter syndrome or an insecure feeling. For example, it is alright to feel stressed while learning something new at work. But if you feel that you can’t do it right because you don’t have the brains, it indicates imposter syndrome.
- Talk to a trusted friend or mentor about what you are feeling. They can boost your confidence, empathise, remind you of all the things you are good at and why you deserve a great opportunity.
- Try to think in a positive manner, even if it is forced at first. If you think “I can do it” in your head, you can overcome most challenges.
- Think back to those times when a client praised you, or your boss pointed out your strengths, or a colleague was awed by your presentation. If you have made a positive impression on people, you surely deserve good things.
- Get professional help if you think that your feelings are deep-seated and cannot be tackled with the tips above.
3. Make relationship building your priority
Whether you can make your workplace actually work for you largely depends on how good you are at networking or fostering positive relationships. This is one of the strategic leadership characteristics you need to master. Collaborating or even just being in regular touch with those who can make a difference to your role or monetary compensation is a wise move. They can be your peers or people at the management level. Finding influential mentors is also a smart way to fast-forward your career path.
So, assess your current network, identify any gaps that might be there, and figure out who in your organisation might help you achieve those goals you have in mind. Next, try and understand how you can build a relationship with such individuals. It is not always necessary to attend dinners, share drinks or go to every office party to network well. You can make use of all those meetings that happen every week and take out some time to ask them about their day, work or what they did for fun last weekend. This will gradually build up a rapport.
4. Ask for specific feedback
While nurturing important relationships at work is important for your growth and leadership journey, it isn’t enough. You need to know exactly what to improve on or what changes to make. Hence, asking for specific feedback is one of the essential types of leadership strategies to work on, even if someone thinks that you are doing a great job. “Great” is often subjective or vague, and might not give you the concrete push you need to become the Vice President of Sales or the Consumer Insights Director. So, you should proactively ask about the specific skill you must sharpen or attain to get a particular position. In other words, the feedback must be actionable and constructive. Unfortunately though, this is rare in case of women.
Here’s an example that will help you understand my point – A few years back, I was coaching a lady (let’s call her Sheila) who was enjoying a pretty important position in the PR department of an ad agency. She had an impressive track record of retaining existing clients and getting new ones. And, Sheila was eyeing the Vice President position in her department (justifiably).
However, at the time of her review, when she asked her supervisor about how she could improve to get promoted and lead a bigger team, he simply advised her to be more amiable and maybe dress more trendily. She received no insight related to the work that she was doing or the competencies she had. Annoying, right? Here’s where leadership programs can help:
- They can teach you how to list down the specific skills you have (like communication and interpersonal skills, presentation skills and IT skills in case of Sheila) and ask for an actionable feedback on a particular skill. This will compel your manager to share strategies on how to go about it.
- Another hurdle women face at work is that people often consider them to be “too ambitious”. And this can happen if you ask for repeated feedback. However, if it seems that you want to do better for the sake of the company or clients, your ambition will be viewed more positively.
- Another one of the major leadership strategies for women is to network with more than one leader at your workplace. This way, you will be “heard” even if your direct supervisor is not too concerned about your goals. Sharing your thoughts about a review with trusted mentors can help you de-stress, feel supported and also give you a different perspective.
5. Stop apologizing
Among all the leadership strategies for women that you might come across, this is one of the most important. Here’s why – do you often find yourself apologizing even when you are not really at fault? For instance, do you tend to say “sorry” when you are reaching out for coffee cups in the pantry and someone is standing bang in front of the machine? Or, maybe you apologize when you are requesting a colleague to help you with something? Social conditioning usually makes women apologize more than men, even when there is no need. And you might do it unconsciously. Since apologizing unnecessarily can show you in a weak light and affect your credibility and confidence, here’s how to overcome it:
- Unless something is actually your fault, don’t say sorry or bear the blame.
- Did someone share any unfortunate news with you? Instead of saying “I am sorry to hear that…” express your empathy by saying that you understand how difficult it must be for the other person.
- If you disagree with someone about something, don’t apologise for thinking or feeling differently. Rather, explain why you disagree.
- Made some minor errors at work? Instead of apologising, thank the person for bringing the mistakes to your attention.
Women leadership programs help you incorporate these tips in your everyday routine, so that your language becomes stronger, more confident and more direct.
How we address the crucial issue of Women’s Leadership Development at Kavyata
Our woman’s leadership program is designed to include ‘Field, Forum and Coaching’ elements, so that women who currently enjoy senior positions can evolve into powerful leaders. We follow a one-of-a-kind approach called ‘Voice to Choice’ to help you overcome challenges that crop up on your journey to leadership. It involves an accelerated Leadership Experience that spans 7 months.
The Voice to Choice approach is extremely scalable, so that companies can identify, build and maintain leadership qualities in women consistently. This boosts not just individual performance, but also organisational performance.
Eager to know more about our Voice to Choice approach and how it can help you become a powerful woman leader? Get in touch with us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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Kavita, an alumna of IIM Ahmedabad, brings 20 years of experience in Experiential Learning, Coaching, Personal Growth & Change. Her forte is Career Transition Coaching and Leadership Development for mid-senior individuals, helping them find success and fulfilment at work . She also teaches Career & Self Development courses at leading management institutes including IIM Kozhikode, IIM Udaipur, IIM Indore and at the IITs.