30 Nov Why Leadership Development Training is important for Women Leaders to Achieve their Potential
Can women leaders break through the glass ceiling at work by following their unique leadership development style and not necessarily conforming to the pressures of being like male leaders? Yes, it is something that women leaders can be taught and coached to do, albeit in a different way than the way male leaders may hone their leadership abilities.
Leadership is a set of behaviours and mindsets that is built as a result of hundreds of micro-lessons and experiences over the course of a career. If yours is an organization that wants to harness the power of a diverse set of women leaders, you need to think about how to create leadership development training and opportunities that can speak to the unique needs of women leaders.
Women who aspire to leadership roles face unique challenges in today’s companies. They are passed over for key opportunities, paid less than their male colleagues, and left out of critical networks. Therefore, it is critical that women’s leadership development programs focus on enabling women to:
- Identify the key skills necessary to advance in the workplace and state their career aspirations
- Practice high-impact behaviors that will move women into leadership positions
- Remove limiting mindsets that can keep them from achieving their potential
Let’s look at how each of these essential components can be addressed through leadership development training and coaching for women leaders.
1. Identifying the key skills necessary to advance in the workplace and stating your career aspirations clearly
Women are often second guessing themselves when it comes to putting themselves forward for opportunities in high-visibility assignments and projects. Research shows that even if a woman believes that she has most of the skills and experience for a role, she’ll focus on what she lacks. Women tend to think that their performance will speak for itself, they’re surprised that they’re not selected for new opportunities, yet often they never let people know they were actually interested in those roles.
Leadership development for women creates space for them to visualize their future and look at their strengths and career aspirations
Knowing what you want and how your skills align with an organization or add value to a team can trump years of experience that another candidate might have. Leadership development can teach women to get comfortable with asking, “How can I be involved in the initiatives that add most value or help the company right now?”
Leadership development programs must be designed to create space for women leaders to reflect on key questions such as
“Why did I enjoy working with this type of client or company?”
“How did I really add value to this project/client and what did I do exceedingly well?”
“What impact have my strengths had on the organization’s/team’s success?”
“What do I really need to be happy and fulfilled at work?”
“What projects leave me feeling energized vs. drained?”
“How am I invaluable to my team?”
“What are my must-haves and deal-breakers in my next role?”
“What do I need most today?”
Leadership development for women must teach them to understand their own skills and clearly
define their needs, skills and aspirations.
2. Practicing high-impact behaviors that will move women into leadership positions
This is the meat of women’s leadership development programs – coaching them to identify and practice high-impact behaviours that will move them into leadership positions.
What are some of these high-impact behaviours?
a) Being prepared for pushback and demanding feedback that can help you: – Sometimes you get what you want at work by being prepared and making a compelling ask. This is even more likely if you’re ready with workable solutions to the other person’s possible objections. When you expect that you will meet resistance, you will be prepared with turns in mind when you enter a discussion or negotiation. A key behavior therefore to develop for women leaders is to learn to anticipate pushback/resistance and have some turns in mind to keep the negotiation going your way.
Another common difficulty that women face that they are given feedback about their style but not direct feedback on their performance. When you hear feedback that isn’t tied to performance, you need to push back. For example, ask questions. Ask for concrete examples. And ask how that quality connects to your job success. You have every right to get performance feedback. It’s what helps you improve and grow. So be persistent and keep asking for performance reviews you can learn from.
b) Expanding your influence and network – Women under-invest in intentionally growing and accessing networks, even though they may be great at building relationships with a wide variety of people. A vital part of a women’s leadership development program is teaching women to identify and map their networks and think strategically about how they can use their networks to expand their influence.
Does your network have a good mix of people who can help you with day-to-day challenges, people who can be mentors and sponsors to you and people who you turn to for personal support? If your network lacks breadth and depth, leadership training can help you to think about strategies to invest in your network in a way that’s aligned with your goals.
How can I invest in and access my network in more impactful ways – a question that leadership development helps women leaders to answer
c) Saying ‘yes’ to more responsibilities and asking for them: While men often ask for more responsibilities even though they may have only 60-70 per cent of the capabilities required, women often hold back even if they are 120-150 per cent qualified for the job. Women’s leadership development urges them to start voicing their ambition and working systematically towards it, including saying yes to more responsibilities that are aligned with their ambitions. Leadership coaching can help women leaders assert their ambitions more powerfully and also make a strong case for why they should be given complex and challenging responsibilities, because they have the necessary skills and mindsets.
Leadership development for women must make women leaders aware of the high-impact behaviours they need to practice and how that might translate into action in their own particular context.
Read Also – 11 Reasons Why You Need a Career Coach
3. Removing limiting mindsets that can keep them from achieving their potential
The greatest factor undermining women’s growth as leaders can be the limiting mindsets they operate with. Leadership development and coaching women leaders can be especially beneficial in making women leaders aware of their inner voice and finding ways to turn unhelpful voices into supportive ones. The common limiting beliefs and inner voices which need to be worked upon include
a) “I need to be perfect” – getting rid of this voice allows women leaders to experiment with new initiatives, take risks and do things which can give them high payoffs. But in the first place, many women have been conditioned to try to be perfect. Leadership training and coaching enables them to see this inner conditioning and the impact it has on their careers. And when this is also supported by making women aware of their career aspirations and strengths, then it becomes easier for women to take steps to dial down this unhelpful attitude of ‘perfectionism’. In fact, in our women’s leadership development programs, one thing we commonly do is to urge women to maintain an ‘imperfection’ diary – to try out new things, even if they know they are going to be imperfect and then maintain a record of them and see how their confidence grows as they keep taking initiatives without pressurizing themselves to get them completely right.
b) “I am not the topmost on my priorities for myself” – the most important thing women can do for their success is to prioritize their mental, emotional and physical health. Leadership development for women which does not address this very fundamental mindset shift can often fall flat – it can teach women the bells and whistles of leadership like decision making, delegating and managing one’s time, but without seeding an inner belief that ‘my needs and choices matter’, they will not enable sustainable leadership development of women leaders.
Leadership development for women must take an inside-out approach to developing their leadership capabilities by helping them to shift from their limiting beliefs.
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.