The corporate village can be a complicated and challenging place for women to navigate and succeed in. More often than not, the image of female leaders within the corporate sector is one that is marked with masculine traits.
This is not surprising given the numerous articles in the media and in the social landscape from women in leadership positions who have encouraged their peers to lean in, take charge and be heard. While these are great pieces of advice, the difference is understanding that career success is not about adjusting to the male-dominated status quo. It’s about challenging the status quo by capitalising on what makes the female perspective unique to the overall business imperative.
When an accurate representation of women in the workforce is absent, it changes the culture of the business. There are some stylistic elements in the areas of communication for example that women excel greatly at that can impact the business positively.
Women have long been told to display masculine traits to successfully climb the corporate ladder. There are however, successful female leaders who have taken a different approach to earning their seat in the boardroom. I for one, was never a believer in thumping my fists on the table to make a point. In fact, quite the contrary. To the ladies out there who aspire to rise the ranks in your respective industries, here are five leadership skills to help you achieve success.
Tip #1: Be true to yourself – always
It can be tempting to put on a persona that’s different to yours in order to gain approval from peers or fit a mould that’s required to achieve success. This foreign persona can become tiring and weigh us down eventually, exposing our vulnerable side.
In the journey to climb the ranks, this might sound cliché but it’s important to always be true to yourself and draw from your own experiences, values and strengths.
The bedrock of authenticity is self-awareness. When working in a large corporation with many different personalities, it is important to feel comfortable and grounded so that you can do your job without feeling ethically compromised. Further, it gives us a chance to show our unique personality in the workplace.
Tip #2: There is no “one size fits all” approach
In a workplace full of individuals aiming to achieve the same goals, no two personalities are the same. As such, managing your team members as a group of identical clones would be akin to trying to fit a square peg into a round hole, as no one leadership style can cater to everyone. We need to be aware that a certain leadership style that may have worked for us in the past, may not work for someone else.
Progressive leaders are versatile in their leadership approach, taking the time to understand the colleagues they are working with. Versatility will help us to appreciate the value our colleagues bring to the table and identify areas that will make them even more successful. This personalised interaction will help develop a coaching mechanism that is tailored to different people.
Tip #3: Play to people’s strengths
As leaders, we want to see our teams shine in areas that were considered weaknesses before. While this is a work in progress, let’s not get blindsided by this and remember to play up their strengths.
The office can be a chaotic place where we are all rushing deadlines, closing a quarter or completing milestones, meaning that we don’t take notice of quality traits within the team that work to ensure the business is successful.
The best leaders share one talent – the ability to find and capitalise upon their team’s strengths. The key question to ask is ‘How can this team member’s strength help him or her shine in the workplace’? Only then, will your team enjoy the work they do and put their best foot forward.
Tip #4: Find a mentor
Leadership skills are not acquired overnight and are always a work in progress. In your career, there will be many stumbling blocks along the way that shape your character, along with many celebrations when you cross a milestone. The pathway to self-improvement as a leader can get overwhelming.
To not lose sight of yourself and your business goals, finding a mentor to draw upon their experience, skills or expertise for personal and professional development can be useful. Throughout my career, there are mentors I’ve learnt many things from that helped me get to where I am today.
Tip #5: Worrying is a waste of time
If I could go back in time, there is one piece of advice I would give my younger self, and that is – to stop worrying. When faced with a new task, our first reaction is to question whether we are up to the challenge and we can let fear paralyse our ability to perform.
We don’t realise how resourceful we are until we get stuck into the task. As long as you have the aptitude to ask plenty of questions and are not afraid to tap someone on the shoulder for help, you will be amazed at your ability to conquer any task head on.
Ability to influence
The leadership journey is a daily evolution, and no two days are the same and learning is an ongoing process. As long as you put people at the forefront in your journey and are genuine about your actions, you will never walk alone.
As the realm of the corporate world diversifies, we as leaders are in an important position to influence and bring about positive change to ensure that representation within organisations is reflective of society at every level.
We all go to work wanting to do a great job, regardless of our race, colour or religion, and, as leaders, we need to recognise this and help our teams perform and contribute to the company based on their merits, and nothing else. After all, change in the diversity and inclusion agenda is most successful when leaders are championing efforts right from the beginning and changing mindsets in the process.