Friday, 7 August 2015

9 Lessons in #Female #Leadership

Many people have commented on my leadership insights blogs and how interesting and relevant they were. I have therefore created a summary of the key points that were identified and discussed over the three blogs. I hope you will find that reading them all together provides further opportunities for reflection and learning.

#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
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 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! 

#4 There is no leadership without strategy

Women often comment upon their need to become more strategic, to take the next step having become very good at operational work. But strategy requires time to think and time to reflect and that seems to be a common 'missing link'. Also strategy requires more than 'hard work', it reques a game plan. This is something that attendees recognised to be not very good at. I am not sure this can be generalised but the point here is that women are more likely to just 'get on with the work' and if you are faced down buried into your work, you have hardly the chance to stick your head above the parapet !

#5 Authentic leadership requires mindfulness and a clear heart

There is no doubt that for many of us, males and females, the thought of 'just being', reconnecting and being present in the moment is still relatively alien and positively out of our comfort zone. We discussed this and the need to break through the comfort zone in order to enter the learning area - a concept relatively intuitive but actually difficult to implement.

#6 To increase your leadership presence you have to clearly understand power and who holds it

As women leaders being strategic is key. We need to think strategically and approach leadership not just through hard work but also through a more systematic process that includes networking and navigating the corridors and actually negotiation ( win - win being the ideal outcome) in order to win the minds as well as the hearts of people who matter.

#7 Camaraderie and Support

I have heard it over and over again, women-only groups become (pardon my French) bitchy and hellish. Yet, in my experience this could not be further away from the truth. The support, sharing and empathy I have witnessed amongst women has been absolutely first class. On the contrary, I regularly experience many mix- or male only group in which testosterone-filled alpha males try to out-do each other by challenging and out-smarting one another.

#8 Listen, Learn, this order!  

Being willing to listen, learn and only then lead is core to growing your strengths as female leader. I believe this is exactly how it should be as you cannot lead unless you have first opened up your heart and your mind to others through empathetic listening. You also need to listen to yourself, to your emotions, feelings, intuitions...and take notice. This level of listening inevitably brings about learning and demonstrates your ability to take feedback on board too.

#9 Fun, Food and Follow Up!

If we can start every day with a game, a story, something to relax, make us laugh, reconnect , we are going to function better as leaders. Sharing food is also an important aspect as it is about our primary needs and about building trust through the simple things. This is in itself a huge leadership lesson or at least a reminder that small but genuine, personal touches speak directly to people's heart creating good will and engagement.

As for follow up...mentoring in all its forms (one to one, peer, group etc) is a key tool for leadership. There is no doubt that mentoring works greatly with women, because of the intimacy and nurturing inherent to it. Giving as much as receiving is part of mentoring and this really helps us engage with others in a positive, developmental way. 

Alessandra is an experienced mentor, business coach, consultant and strategist. She supports individuals - especially women - and organisations in achieveing their potential through customised, outcome driven interventions . You can find out more about Alessandra here and contact her by email here. 

1 comment:

  1. Due to lack of leadership, people are facing different types of problems in their personal as well as professional life. Most probably, leadership helps to develop personality, skills, and strategies. So, we need strong leadership programs to improve our leadership skills, especially, female needs proper leadership attitude in their personality, so that they can easily improve their daily lifestyle as well as personal skills. From this article, we learn some basic facts about female leadership and how to maintain it, thanks for such a wonderful post with fruitful information.
    Leadership Coach