Perhaps people expect a discussion stir up about the relative strengths and weaknesses of each gender regarding leadership positions. But I think this is just not the right question, probably because we paddle into murky waters when trying to contemplate about half of the population based on gender alone. We are so much more than our gender. We are a product that represents our environment, our culture, our genetics, our worldview and above all, our self!
And yet, gender of course, does play a marvelous role in our lives and our lived experiences. And so, it is vital to know how gender affects the way that many women handle the opportunity for leadership.
Leadership is about motivating people, inspiring people, creating a culture that augments high performance, accountability, results and thriving.
Becoming a leader can be incredibly stressful, it can be puzzling and confounding, and it can be exhilarating too, after all it is a roller-coaster ride. And, of course women, as well as men, can excel at these tasks regardless, if they choose to undertake them.
The research, however, suggests women are more diffident when it comes to embracing these roles, considering themselves unprepared or unworthy.
As recent events have reminded us, the world could stand to have more women’s voices in leadership positions, so women are strongly encouraged to seek them.
Some To-Dos for all the women out there:
Seek Mentors: Don’t be shy. Just ask! Make sure to ask someone you admire. Most people are more than willing to help. But also remember you are a capable human being. Don’t follow advice blindly. Think! Does the advice line up with your own ethical standards? Does it make sense? Is there something about it that is unclear or makes you uncomfortable?
Be Ready: Research (and Sheryl Sandberg’s book, Lean In) suggests that women hesitate when offered a new opportunity. Don’t turn down an opportunity that someone else thinks you are qualified for due to either unnecessary modesty or lack of self-confidence. Some research has shown that women only apply for a job if they think they have 100% of the listed qualifications. Men feel qualified if they meet 60% of the qualifications.
Observe: those around you. Emulate people you respect. Also, as a leader, take the time to understand the history and culture of your organization. It is important to have this understanding so you can assess what, if anything needs to change, how fast you can lead change, whether it will be welcome or resisted and whether it is the best thing to be doing with these people at this time.
Never Compromise on ethics or integrity. This seems obvious, but the higher you climb the institutional hierarchy, the more politics comes into play.
Identify people you can trust versus those who are trying to please you. Again, the higher you go, the more of the latter you will find.
Be Robust and Persistent: The worth of these two qualities cannot be overemphasized. Leadership involves creating a vision, developing a strategy, and executing it by having the right talent in the right places and fostering innovation and agility. You will encounter failures. You will hear straight “NOs.” But if you are resilient and persistent, not to mention a too creative problem solver, you will eventually find success.