Women face unique challenges as leaders, whether they run a small business or are holding executive roles in the corporate world.
There are many aspects and challenges of leadership and women should keep the following ten tips in mind to be effective and successful in a long-term leadership position.
1. Be authentic
Confidence as a leader is about being authentic and developing the qualities that resonate with your personality and style of leadership. By observing the traits of leaders that you admire, keeping in mind your own leadership development, you can focus on improving your professional presence. Expressing authentic leadership is a process that takes time and you will often have to refine the balance between what is personal and what is professional, but in the end your authenticity will send a powerful statement and earn the respect of your employees, colleagues and even your superiors.
2. Be focused
A focused leader will know what the business needs and goals are, and how her team can work effectively to make it happen. By eliminating the clutter and having a clear, well-planned strategy that plays to the strengths of the individuals in your team, you can really be effective. Being a focused leader also means a healthy attention to detail. It is very common to hear that leaders should not get into the small details and focus on the ‘big picture’. However, while you do need to direct the big picture, this should not negate any responsibility to ensure accuracy and compliance.
3. Listen, sense and respond
You may hire people to work for you, but you must remember that to lead talented people, you must assist them as well. Communicate honestly and mentor them to assist them with any obstacles they face and help free them of distractions and keep them focused. Pay attention to your team, extend and challenge them and invest in their professional development as well as provide regular feedback on performance, and you and your organisation will reap the benefits too. Listening and being in the moment with all interactions is really important.
4. Be flexible
Not everything will go as planned so good leaders can’t afford to be rigid. Competitors change strategies, new regulations are introduced, and even natural disasters and world events can challenge us and the economic environment at any time. The best leaders have the ability to change direction and adapt to change very quickly, ensuring the business will survive and prosper. The challenge is to lead your team to accept and adapt to change.
5. Work with mentors
By engaging mentors and coaches and seeking feedback on leadership techniques, you can constantly improve your qualities and effectiveness as a leader. Their mistakes will be a learning ground, and their experience, a knowledge resource. It’s advisable to have different mentors and coaches who will offer you different insights and experiences, as well as choosing both men and women. You can have someone who assists you with strategy, while another coaches your interpersonal, networking and leadership skills, and so on.
While it may feel unnatural and boastful, self-promotion is important to differentiate yourself. There is only one way to build your confidence and be comfortable with this concept….by doing it. Women and men self-promote very differently, so do it in the manner you are comfortable with. The important thing is to do it! Exuding enthusiasm about a new project or suggesting how you could contribute to a company-wide program will get you on the radar, showcase leadership and will get people to notice you.
7. Keep learning
Never stop learning. You can’t level off once you have authority. This is where great leaders excel and by continual learning you maintain your relevance. Extract insight from daily experiences, your employees, clients and even yourself. Great questions are the best way to have meaningful conservations with an employee, client or mentor, and learn something new on each interaction. On the other hand, the fastest way to lose credibility is to live with the assumption that there is nothing more to learn.
8. Be patient and persistent
The best leaders don’t hire people for today. They weigh in potential and learn to be patient. They educate and persist, not demand and give up. Building a reputation as a leader requires patience, and it leads to positive recognition, smarter decisions when they matter most, and remarkable results.
9. Be passionate
Talented employees want to be a part of something bigger, and great leaders recognise this. Leadership requires you to bring a contagious passion and enthusiasm to your team and projects. You role is to remind your team why they work for you, why their work is relevant and what they (and your clients) will gain from their continued contribution to the business. By reinforcing your message with every interaction, you will show passion and commitment to your work, your organisation and your team.
10. Celebrate the wins
In the non-stop business environment today, we tend to move from task to task without any reflection on what has been achieved. As a leader, it’s important to celebrate the wins of your team as they provide a vital opportunity to inspire employees to even greater success, and strengthen your skills as a leader. Celebrating small successes will motivate your team, build momentum and reinforce the kind of behaviours the company, and you, value as a leader.