The Real Leadership Debate: Women, are we our own worst enemy?

by DBL Global Manager, Angela Hands

As a business leader, I never consider that my decisions, attributes, my communication style or the way I lead is because I am female. 
I had the privilege to have this emphasised throughout my recent attendance to the Change Makers Rule Breakers (CMRB) Leadership program on Necker Island hosted by Sir Richard Branson and the CMRB team. Amongst our diverse group of leaders, we were never recognised for our gender, but instead for our unique skills and attributes which could contribute to support and leverage each other’s entrepreneurial businesses.
Can females be their own worst enemy when it comes to stepping up into leadership roles? 
I would dare to say the majority of society has a view that it doesn’t matter what gender you are, but what qualities and skills you can provide to become a successful leader. 
We are fortunate that today we live in a world where there is no limit as to the roles women want to and can play. We can have it all and balance ‘it all’ at various stages of our lives. More women are stepping up and leading than ever before and we are observing the creation of new businesses and industries being disrupted through this movement. Take Naomi Climer for example, the first female leader of the engineering industry via her presidency of IET. The engineering industry is notorious for it’s primarily male workforce, with women making up less than 10% of it. We are challenging the traditional ‘dictate and command’ leadership techniques and instead bringing our own flair and style to move businesses to a place of growth and way of thinking. 
Whilst this is all true, there is still, however a bias placed on females which is embedded purely due to historical stereotyping in culture’s worldwide. It’s only in the past few years that we’ve seen true appreciation for the contributions of women to society, proof as such with Britain’s newly unveiled £10 note harnessing the face of Jane Austen. 
Most significantly, I believe the biggest and most detrimental bias is from within ourselves, as females.
As females, we are challenged, to some degree, with our own beliefs to be leaders. Would it be fair to suggest that us women may also be confused to what our beliefs are, especially when we are told we can have it all
So how do we embrace our feminine power and our own self-belief?
Ultimately, society does not limit us. We limit ourselves by focusing on our own limitations and not our authentic self and value. If you prepare for success, you will succeed. 
So how do we continue with this momentum?

Balance Emotion with Rational thought

Each of us has experienced some type of bullying, harassment or derogatory comment that plays into our thoughts. Thoughts are mental cognitions – our ideas, opinions and beliefs about ourselves and the world around us. That includes the perspectives we bring to any situation or experience. 
In our world, we as females are constantly providing emotional and rational thoughts to any situation in our personal lives. This skill is a huge advantage in leading corporations. To be able to tune in and obtain a deeper and quick awareness of the situation can balance beautifully with rational thinking. This allows a quick reaction to understand the situation, be resilient and solution orientated, and create change.

Embrace Fear and Mistakes

Fear of failure can be the biggest Achilles heel for any manager or leader. You must not fear mistakes. To not achieve the desired results first time can not only demotivate but also question your vision. Sir Richard Branson says ‘Do not be embarrassed by your failures, learn from them and start again.’ This is key. Stay focused on such a vision and welcome failure and mistakes. When this happens, try again until the vision is achieved to the desired result. 

Drive change to traditional thinking through Innovation and Resilience

Innovation and Resilience are the two most common attributes that leaders look for in their employees. In leadership development, we emphasise that to be able to drive change in employee behaviour, we must start with the leader. By being resilient in ourselves, it forces us to never settle. To drive new ideas and therefore new processes and systems, guides a business and it’s teams to follow this mind-set and work towards the common goal. 

Don’t forget to also lead from behind

Create a team that allows you to approach multiple and effective leadership strategies. This includes not limiting yourself to only lead from the front, but also to lead the organisation from behind. 
The benefit of leading from behind is that you can have transparency in the team’s workings. You may steer to an extent, but largely the team can choose its own way. This works particularly well when your team have a clear understanding about the goal and direction the business is going. 
Such an approach works well by giving individuals space for new innovative ideas to develop. Leading from behind can be an excellent way to unlock everyone’s potential and stretch them in their capabilities while driving a positive organisation culture. 
As leaders, we have an opportunity to embrace our self-belief more than ever. To not be afraid to lean in, to disrupt thinking and lead with confidence. 
The opportunities for women of all capabilities have increased in ways previously unimaginable, but perhaps the barriers on progress for women are now women themselves. It’s important we move forward blind to stereotyping and the limits women before us were subject to, and allow our skills and determination to take us from success to success. 
Find out more about leadership training with Development Beyond Learning: http://www.developmentbeyondlearning.com/leaders.html

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