Four Ways To Embrace And Advance Your Leadership Skills
No matter your gender, it’s hard to deny that women are commanding new respect in 2019. Thanks to recent high-profile news -- last year’s midterm elections, for example -- women’s matters are now at the heart of our national dialogue. Truly, women are on the rise in many industries. But where do we stand in the day-to-day world of business?
On the surface, the answer is dismal. The vast majority of CEOs at Fortune 500 companies are men, and Fortune reported that women received just 2.2% of the venture capital funds invested last year. Yet, despite the numbers, I believe there are plenty of reasons that companies looking to grow should actively seek out female leadership -- and also why women thinking about starting a business should take the leap.
In honor of International Women’s Day on March 8, here are five ways I believe women are shining in leadership roles and how you can improve your own leadership skills to advance your career.
1. Be Deliberate
Laughable, dated stereotypes portray women as “overthinkers.” While a propensity to “overthink” is painted as a negative, in the business world -- especially in the startup world -- a leader can never be too careful with the funds and responsibility entrusted to her.
To make a decision that’s good for your business, it’s important to spend time deliberating on the options and carefully evaluating the trade-offs, as opposed to making a rash, off-the-cuff decision.
In my opinion, embracing the stereotype is a good thing if it lends itself to taking measured, calculated risks. The next time your company is making an important business decision, share your decision making process, and show fellow managers why taking extra steps to reach a verdict can lead to a better outcome for the business.
2. Turn Feedback Into Results
Data shows that women have leadership styles that are more participatory and collaborative, and it’s these qualities that can create a genuine openness to feedback. Feedback is meant to be a helpful vehicle for improvement (although it’s been shown that women are sometimes shortchanged when it comes to performance reviews), and for women, it often serves as a confidence booster or constructive way to improve the business.
Openness to feedback and a propensity to take action from it helps business owners and entrepreneurs understand what’s working for their businesses and what their blind spots are. I always say that feedback is a gift. When working on projects, be sure to encourage team members to share opinions and thoughts every step of the way. It will not only enhance the quality of work across the business, but it will also encourage employees to offer support to one another in the future.
3. Let Your Emotional Intelligence Lead
Emotional intelligence includes a range of softer skills, like self-awareness, motivation, empathy and adaptability. Interestingly, in a study reported on by Forbes, women were found to outperform men on nearly every aspect on the emotional intelligence scale.
Sure, assertiveness and hard-nosed business acumen are important in a leader, but emotional intelligence is critical in leadership. We all know the ability to bring people and ideas together is a vital part of any successful business.
As a leader, emotional intelligence can help you find and acknowledge the strengths and weaknesses of your employees and co-workers. Understand them, leverage them and create an environment that embraces them. This will help your colleagues to feel empowered, and you may build a stronger business because of it.
4. Be Ready For Change
Lilly Ledbetter, Katherine Johnson, Sally Ride -- these monumental ladies are just a few of the women who’ve paved the way for the changes just now taking effect. Thanks to the many women who’ve blazed a trail to gender equality, many women today are emboldened to speak up and speak out. Women who’ve been victimized in the past are realizing they’re not alone, often finding the courage to come forward and feeling empowered to stand strong.
Embrace and take part in these positive changes; join the conversations around you, and offer support to others in similar situations that you’ve found yourself in the past. You might find that you can gain new understanding, new information and new connections just by being an agent of change.
Change Is In The Air
What would our world look like with more female business leaders? For organizations, industries and employees, would it mean a happier, more balanced workplace? Think about what you can do to further the cause. Try supporting a woman-owned business each month, working on that business plan you’ve been thinking about or serving as a mentor.
How else can we work together to advance the role of women in the workplace? I’d love to hear your thoughts!
by Marie Rosecrans