Women show the way in leadership

Sheryl Sandberg, COO of Facebook, states that women fill barely 16 per cent of top positions in the corporate sector. Yet, in our experience of training and coaching thousands of people in the past 10 years, women naturally make better leaders than men.

This is particularly true for women leading SMEs, as they have to wear multiple hats and often act as CEO, HR manager and marketing director all in one. Sound familiar?

Women naturally have a greater capacity for empathy and emotional intelligence. This is both their key leadership strength and, paradoxically, what can holds them back in taking the lead. Put simply, women often care too much about the way they are perceived by others.

With so few women in top roles, we need more diversity in our leaders.

This includes those who are more aligned with the elements of compassion and collaboration, who care about people, who get the best out of people, and who are enlightened enough to be effective and transformative in their attitude and their actions to improve the cultures and social systems of the organisations they lead.

Research says businesses with more women on their boards “outperform their rivals with a 42 per cent higher return on sales, 66 per cent higher return on invested capital and 53 per cent higher return on equity”.* So, is it time to look at developing yourself and the women around you as the heart of your business?

Our experience is that for too long, the core support mechanisms for women in leadership have been absent. Here are our five quick tips to get you moving.

Act with response-ability

Response-ability is the ability to respond. It is understanding where your power starts and where it finishes. You are responsible for only four elements: your two private powers, your thinking and feeling; and your two public powers, your speaking and behaving.

When you take ownership of these powers, you gain influence.

Be willing to have fierce conversations

Once you’ve defined your own role in making changes, you can influence what is around you. To do this, you may well need to have “fierce conversations”, the goal of which having is to enable honest, true, and authentic exchanges about the behaviors, attitude, culture or systems that aren’t working as effectively as they could be.

Know your frames

Framing is about categorising information. The category that you put information into determines the experience of that information. Think of frames as being like your personal assumptions. For example, if criticism fits into the category of personal attack and rejection for you, then the next time you receive negative feedback you may experience it as an attack even if that is not the intent.

Work to your strengths

People who build their lives around strengths are more productive, fulfilled, and likely to achieve excellence. Dr. Robert Sternberg from Cornell University has spent decades researching highly successful individuals and has found the one common trait amongst them all has nothing to do with their IQ and everything to do with knowing what they’re good at, and then applying those strengths.

Move from failure to feedback

One of the most common fears is failure. This fear leads to procrastination and performance anxiety, which only serves to hold you back. Compare the outcome of things you have done that haven’t worked out with the expectation before you did them, and use that information take a different approach. Keep trying as repetition gives you the feedback you need to make more adjustments that get you closer to the desired results.

Unleash your potential as a woman in leadership

Seek opportunities for professional development, such as The Coaching Room’s intensive, two-day leadership workshops in February for aimed at women who leading others, whether that’s in business, communities, families or want to leadership themselves better.

* Catalyst Information Group, Why Diversity Matters report (2013)

Jay Hedley, Managing Partner, The Coaching Room

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