For ages we have been taught leadership models that had their origins in the military. By definiton this came from a male paradigm of thinking. Fortunately, many people are asking questions today about what leadership tools and behaviors will be most effective in the years to come.
Much of the research being published about the skills needed to effectively steer our corporations now and in the future are skills that come very easily to women. These include skills like building relationship and consensus, influencingand enrol-ling people over whom you have no authority, and intuition and emotional intelligence to name a few.
Given that we women are highly skilled in these areas, is there more for us women to learn? Can we just assume that there’s nothing else to develop since we already excel at these skills? After working with hundreds of women primarily in the male-domina-ted financialand petro-chemical industries, I know this will not suffice.
There are very vital issues women must contend with if we want to become leaders that have real impact and influence First, we have to be ourselves – authenticity is key. We need to understand the value and strength of being who we really are as women. We so often think there is a ‘right’ way to lead or we’ve been trained to take on a certain ‘leadership persona’ (such as being upbeat or motivational). However if you really think about it that doesn’t make sense at all. For example, only Mother Theresa could ‘do’ Mother Theresa authentically, even if many of us wish we could be more like her.
This is why it’s a question of being you and being yourself with everybody, whether you’re at work or at home. People can trust and therefore can follow a person who is being herself. They might not be able to pinpoint what it is that is off about someone when they’re not being themselves, but they can sense that something is off. Therefore they’re less likely to trust someone unless that person is speaking to a dynamic in them that has the power to overrule every other instinct, such as greed, for example. But in today’s economy that carrot has been limited considerably and in the long run, this approach really doesn’t work.
The definitionof authenticity that I like is this: „A particular way of dealing with the external world, being faithful to internal rather than external ideas”. This is when you behave in a way that is consistent with what you believe in – consistent with your values.
Being authentic and kicking the „I‘m not good enough disease“ is some of the best advise I can give women interested in lea-dership positions.
What might keep you from expressing your authentic self? The biggest overriding issues that I have seen are:
The leadership act that there is some way to be a leader. Example: You should be upbeat, motivational or authoritative.
The „I’m not good enough disease“. To be yourself you have to trust that you are good enough. The single biggest epidemic facing womankind is this belief. You need to understand that this belief is a) Not likely to be true (unless you think that everybody who promoted you so far was an idiot) and b) An incredibly limiting belief. That does not mean you walk on water and are entitled to the corner office, but try to always think of yourself as an equal to everybody else.
I find that women systematically underestimate themselves. They often don’t speak up for themselves and they don’t negotiate for themselves. Statistics show that 57 percent of male graduates negotiate their starting salary whereas only seven percent of female graduates do the same.
You are allowed to say when something doesn’t work for you; if it doesn’t work for you there is a chance it doesn’t work for the business, which is a very powerful argument. Example: You find yourself feeling dominated in business discussions by a colleague because that person is forceful and loud in their way of debating an issue and therefore you find yourself feeling less capable of thinking deeply and creatively. You need to have a conversation about this with either the person or the group. You don’t need to say that he/she is forceful and loud but that they come across that way to you. The business impact of an individual or a group being dominated like that is that it limits the degree to which the thinking is being challenged. I don’t need to remind you of the corporate disasters that have occurred in the past decade due to the absence of challenge. Or, do I? Also, remember that men don’t get upset the same way we do. To them, it’s just business, not personal.
Another issue that has women come off as inauthentic is that we credit success to others, having worked really hard or that we got lucky. Men don’t have this issue; they are much more likely to credit themselves. Do not hide your light under that bushel!
So my message is: Be yourself and be yourself with everybody. And it is time we trust ourselves because our time is here. No more excuses and doubts – go for it.
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