On Tuesday this week I run a leadership masterclass with a group of ten women from different background, including finance, academia, the National Health Service, telecommunications, marketing services and manufacturing. A great mix really to discuss what being a female leader means in today’s society and how women can pursue their leadership aspirations. As facilitator, I felt really inspired and truly blessed with the level of engagement I experienced and furthermore the willingness to share and learn from each other I encountered in the room!
The theme of this first day (out of a total of 3) was ‘Leadership and ME’. Participants were introduced to relevant leadership theories but also asked to reflect on their leadership qualities,as well as the values, motivations and strengths they associate with leadership, whether reflecting on themselves but also when discussing publicly acknowledged, male and female ‘leaders’. It was interesting to see that leadership traits as defined by the group were completely detached from sectors or industry background in favour of a more universally applicable definition!
I gained a number of insights throughout the day but some resonated and stuck with so much, that I feel it would be worthwhile sharing them here:
#1 Female leadership is transformational leadership 'at heart'
The concept of 'transformational leadership' was introduced in the 1980's and for the first time identified 'emotional intelligence' as a crucial component of leadership. according to this theory, the leader:
- has integrity
- set clear goals
- communicates openly and often
- encorages and motivates others
- provides supports and recognition
- develop teams and meaningful relationships
- taps into people's emotions
- inspires people to reach for the sky
All participants identified these traits in public female leaders and also said that they were striving to maintain and nurture these traits in themselves. So, we agreed that when women act authentically and remain true to themselves they are actually capable of the most effective leadership. Equally, women who disregard their emotional intelligence in favour of what they perceive as the winning male traits they actually end up losing their effectiveness and their ability to impact others in a powerful, 'transformational' way.
#2 Leadership happens everywhere, whether you are the CEO, you aspire to be one or not.
We often associate the image of a CEO to that of a leader, but that cannot be more far from the truth. Wherever you are in your professional life, a manager in a corporate structure, a sole-trader, an entrepreneur or a stay-at-home-mum you can be a leader in your own right!
This is a particularly important point to acknowledge in my view and especially for women, because often women have too many balls to juggle to focus on a wholly consuming idea such as becoming the CEO! The other side of the coin is that women have the opportunity to meet, nurture and impact so many people from so many different walks of life that they have just as much opportunity to show leadership skills. The key thing is recognising your strengths and applying them to making the difference to whatever you are doing and passionate about.
At a corporate level, I think all organisations need leaders in order to nurture talent, foster innovation, bring
much needed entrepreneurship skills and ultimately thrive in highly competitive, ever changing times! So
organisations need to empower their staff - and particularly the women - to feel and act like leaders.
#3 Knowing Me - Knowing You
We spent a great deal of this first day reflecting on ourselves, investigating own values and even having some fun creating using old magazine and other 'arts and craft ' items to create picture of ourselves. The group felt that the exercise was thought provoking and valuable in more than one way:
- We hardly spend any time investigating and reflecting on ourselves (see my previous blog on the power of reflection!). Yet there cannot be leadership unless there is self-awareness! Even as
adult women and grown up managers we must give ourselves thinking time, reflection time, taking stock time. This is not a luxury, it is a necessity.
- Self-Confidence continues to 'bug us'...although it gets better as we gain more expertise, knowledge and experience throughout life. But as women we need to reinforce it by reminding ourselves of our achievements and skills...and we are not good at recognising those in the first place!
Participants went home with a positive mindset and a to-do list and action plan to implement which we will review at the next masterclass.
I cannot wait to hear what happens next...