Updated: Nov 19, 2020
There is no denying the fact that we have a dearth of women leaders globally. This is clear from as per a study done in 2018 which pointed out that women are leading as CEOs for only 5% of the Fortune 500 companies. This brings us to rethink that diversity is no longer a ‘tick-in-the-box activity’ that is ‘good-to-do’ for corporates, but it is a business imperative and very much the need of the hour. These remarkable women who have made it to leadership positions have made consistent, small yet extraordinary efforts to get there. Here are some mantras that make a successful woman leader who inspires more to follow suit.
1. Be your own person- It is most important to know who you are & play to your strengths. Women tend to look for validation from external sources more often than is required while most successful leaders operate from a space of authenticity. They listen to the voice within, strengthen it and let it guide them towards success in the external world. This inside-out approach is a powerful one to apply, especially for women. A deep-dive into one’s career and life priorities, core values, strengths and possibilities is required, rather than losing precious time ruminating about how to be liked by others.
Find your own balance instead of trying to emulate what others are doing.
2. Choose your battles- Reshma Saujani, founder and CEO of Girls Who Code, said “While girls are taught to play it safe, smile pretty and get all A's, boys are taught to play rough and swing high. In other words, we're raising our girls to be perfect, and we're raising our boys to be brave," she said in a TED talk. “ Even when women are ambitious, the socialization of perfection often leads them to risk aversion”, Saujani evoked.
There is no greatness in trying to be a superwoman, instead learn to say no. Remember that you can’t do everything and you don’t need to do everything perfectly either. It is more impactful to just get out there , choose what you can do and do it well.
3. Learn to Leverage- A lot of times women find it difficult to ask for help. As a result, they load up more work than their load capacity.
Free your bandwidth by making your partner a real partner, dump maternal-gatekeeping and share house hold tasks more openly, assertively and appreciatively. Tread light and rid yourself of the burden of guilt. Only when you have enough support can you brace yourself for the dynamic & demanding world out there. Leverage will reduce your stress, increase your productivity, agility and happiness quotient. As Susan Wojcicki, CEO of YouTube says, "Things are always changing. Part of being successful is being comfortable not knowing what's going to happen." So leverage your support system to keep things organized on the home front so you can be more comfortable operating in chaos at work.
4. Get Yourself Noticed- Women are driven by competence. A lot of times they stick their nose to the grind stone and are dead sure that their work will speak for itself. In the process they fail to get their dues as per their passive expectations because of a lack of consistent effort on the marketing front.
There is no point undermining yourself in this way by slogging out and then waiting to get noticed, rather get out there, hustle your way through and network like a bee. Sheryl Sandberg, COO of Facebook rightly said, “Don’t leave before you leave”. Don’t give up before your time, lean in, sit at the table and speak up.
5. Follow a Guru- The guidance of a mentor and sponsor is paramount. Alongside, patching onto a strong support network of other women leaders can play a huge part in keeping an ambitious woman on track towards success.
6. Take risks- Apart from career breaks and family responsibilities, there are a whole list of unconscious biases and limiting beliefs that keep women from speeding up the corporate ladder. This is a result of our own social conditioning.
Move beyond barriers and constraints and start focusing on the job at hand. If we keep our eyes closed and keep thinking of ‘not getting relegated’, guess what will happen? We will only get relegated. Instead, it is time for women to think of how to succeed. Afterall, equality exists when you don’t feel gender at the workplace and a big way to do that is to keep it simple and focus on getting desired results rather than give undue importance to the obstacles in the way. As Indrani Nooyi says ‘ Accept that turbulence is here to stay’.
7. Balance Yin & Yang- Trust your natural instincts as a female leader. If your innate style is compassionate, questioning and partner-centered then leverage it while balancing it with as much of results-focus, selling and need-for-speed. At the same time, every time you take a stance that is associated with the ‘yang’ in you, let the world not label you ‘bossy’ and even if they do, just bring your smile on and march forward. Practice holistic leadership and find your own unique style rather than emulating the leadership norm around you.
8. Keep seeking feedback on how you can improve. Learning and growing go hand in hand. Seek regular feedback from all around you and avoid taking it personally or getting over confident/complacent because of it. Remember that a great leader always keeps the learner’s hat on.
9. Invest quality time with Family – It is important to have an integrative approach to conflicting priorities so that you are driven by quality rather than the burden of guilt when it comes to missing some important events on the family front. Juggling is a forgone conclusion if you are living an integrated life ,where both work and family hold precedence. Move out of the ‘either-or’ mentality and integrate these two facets of your life. Yes, there will be times when you can’t make it to your kid’s PTM or your husband’s office party or that big family get together. Find a mid-path, keep a Plan B ready and make up for these misses in your own way, but always without guilt. Over time your consistent positive focus towards your family will not only benefit them but also give you that magic potion to take greater strides personally and professionally.
Published by Aditi Sheoran on Linkedin on May 14, 2019