Being a woman in a leadership role can present unique challenges. While society has come far in recent years to help address the gender balance, there is still some way to go before we live in a society with equal opportunities for all. It is essential for women leaders to embrace their strengths and avoid the temptation to try and lead ‘like a man’. This is a trap that many women leaders have fallen into, and it is crucial to remember that women have their own perspectives and unique qualities to bring to the table.
There are a lot of ways you can upskill and develop your abilities as a business leader. It is crucial to find ways to become a well-rounded leader and ensure that you understand the different areas of expertise required to succeed without compromising on your natural talents:
Learn To Self-Advocate
Self-advocacy is a crucial skill for anyone wanting to move upward in their career. Imposter syndrome is a phenomenon that disproportionately impacts women compared to men and is the feeling of being in some way unqualified or incompetent in the role you have achieved. Having strong self-advocacy skills can help you fight for and achieve the things you want from your career, and it can also help to break down some of the barriers you unconsciously build for yourself.
Knowing how and when to push for career advancement is a vital skill and may require some honing. As with many skills, it can take practice to become proficient. It may help to keep putting yourself forward and learn from your experiences doing so. Even if you don’t get the promotion or project you were pushing for, it can still be a valuable learning experience.
Understand Your Strengths And Weaknesses
Every individuals’ strengths and weaknesses are unique. It is crucial not to frame your own strengths and weaknesses against those of your male counterparts. Instead, explore what you consider to be your best attributes and see how you can utilise them to become the best leader possible. For instance, compassion and empathy are not traditionally seen as ‘male’ qualities but can be a massive asset in a leader.
Seek Out A Mentor
An excellent way to help you grow is by following the example of those who have gone before you. Consider asking a woman in a leadership role within your company if they would be willing to take you under their wing and give you advice and tips on how they got to where they are.
You could also consider joining an organisation that brings women in business together to collaborate, share their experiences and network. These types of organisations typically have mentorship opportunities, events, and functions aimed at helping women thrive in business leadership.
Know The Skills You Need For A Role
Naturally, each role will require different qualities and skills to achieve. If you have your sights set on a particular job, it may help consider the other skills you will need to succeed. If you find that you are lacking in any specific area, you should consider taking courses in subjects to help deepen your knowledge.
Likewise, if you have your sights set on top-level management or even the c-suite, then you’ll likely need to consider an advanced degree at some point. Today, there are so many options for earning your Master’s in management or leadership, or other advanced degrees. If you find you need additional education to reach your career goals, create a plan and put it into motion so you can get the education you need to advance up the career ladder.
Choose Women-Specific Leadership Training
There are many leadership training opportunities that specifically cater to helping women advance in leadership roles. These courses are available for professionals of all levels, from aspiring women in their early careers to senior executives. These courses can also be an excellent way to network and improve your contacts within the business world.
Hone Your Decision-Making Skills
Good decision-making skills are necessary for any business leader. You will need to have the ability to make decisions quickly and smartly, weighing up all the options and considering the implications. It is essential to know what to take into account when it comes to making good business decisions. You should consider the opinions of others, the data you have and the potential consequences of any decision you make.
It may help to take some formal training in decision making. In particular, data analysis can help you make sound, data-driven choices. You can find out more information about data analysis courses here.
Avoid Comparing Yourself To Others
Comparing yourself to others is something we all sometimes do, but it can be unhelpful when it comes to being a successful leader. It can also kill creativity, another critical skill for a business leader. If you find yourself comparing your achievements to others, try to take a moment to reflect on your own qualities and successes instead.
Take Care Of Yourself
It is crucial to keep yourself physically and mentally fit. This means taking breaks and avoiding overworking, which can lead to burnout. Ensure that you maintain a good work-life balance and keep an active social life to help you blow off steam when you’ve had a challenging day or week.
Work For Different Companies
Not all companies will have the same opportunities for women. If you find yourself in a company where progression is stagnating, and you are finding it challenging to break through the glass ceiling, it may be worth looking elsewhere for a role. If you are being undervalued, it is crucial to find a place that will value you properly.
It may help to discuss your concerns with higher management. This can be difficult to do if a company is particularly set in their ways, but it can be worth it to pave the way for yourself and other women to achieve more in the company. Being a part of a union can help you if you choose to take action based on gender discrimination.
Embrace ‘Traditionally’ Female Qualities
If you feel you have qualities considered to be ‘female’, you should embrace them rather than trying to fit yourself into the male mould. This could be empathy and compassion, as mentioned above.
Women are more traditionally able to be in touch with their feelings and, as a result, are considered more empathetic. You can use this to your advantage as a leader by nurturing strong relationships with those working for you based on trust and mutual understanding. Of course, not all women will be empathetic by nature. What is important is finding qualities that you excel in – whether accepted as traditionally male or female.
Most business leaders will agree that they’ve got to the place they are with help from others. Accepting a helping hand can be an excellent way to get to where you want to be with your career. Don’t be afraid to ask for help when you need it, and accept it when offered.
Make Use Of Networking Opportunities
Networking is vital to help you find the opportunities you need to grow professionally. You should make use of a wide range of networking opportunities, from conferences and trade shows to class reunions at university, as well as the women-focused organisations mentioned above. Networking is also an excellent way to work on your communication skills.
Being a woman in a leadership role will naturally present challenges, but it will also offer exciting opportunities. More and more businesses are recognising the value of a diverse workplace in 2021, so the options available to ambitious women are increasing every day. It is vital to have the skills and knowledge to thrive in the higher tiers of business and to continue in your development to have the best chances of success.
*Photos by Nataliya Vaitkevich