Leadership for Women: Essential Female Leadership Traits vs. Female Socialization
Women in leadership positions often struggle with what their leadership role requires vs. how they have been socialized in their respective cultures. Below you will find some of the dilemmas that women in leadership face:
Tenacity vs. Compliance
Women have been taught to be compliant rather than to persist and persevere for what we believe. Tenacity is essential for women to get comfortable with in order to be seen as credible. This goes hand-in-hand with a willingness to really compete.
Communicate from a place of certainty about yourself vs. “Don’t brag”
Leadership for women feels like foreign ground for some women when they need to highlight their accomplishments. Being willing to report out their accomplishments needs to become as normal as breathing.
Asking vs. Attaining by merit only- Assignments, promotions or salary. “I shouldn’t have to ask. My boss should realize I deserve this.”
Women need to get past the idea that they can earn what they deserve through merit alone. Women need to get comfortable being able to ask for deserved promotions etc. in order to not be regularly overlooked
Lead vs. Help
Men are very conscious of hierarchy. Women tend to ignore hierarchy and believe that it is unimportant. Men see women’s reluctance to grasp for the upper hand as a sign of weakness. We need to understand this as we strive to excel in a hierarchy.
Setting Direction vs. “Be cooperative and build consensus with everyone.”
Building consensus with everyone, while great in theory, is not always time effective and looks indecisive from the male viewpoint. When men see a woman gather people together for every decision they conclude that this is a person who cannot make a decision.
Setting Limits vs. “It’s not nice to say ‘no’. People won’t like you.”
Often women find themselves having to say “no” or set limits/boundaries in leadership roles. With all of the socialization around being nice many women find it difficult to keep the best interest of the company at hand and to say no, firmly, when necessary.
Taking Risks vs. “If you’re making unpopular decisions or you have unpopular opinions, you’ll be unpopular.”
Especially in meetings and other large forums, women need to be willing to have their voice and speak out with an unpopular opinion. To be seen as a leader a woman must not be seen as a person who waits for the popular opinion and then agrees.
Dealing with Conflict vs. “Being nice”
Women need to be willing to walk right toward conflict. Period.
Being Direct/Having the Tough Conversations vs. Communicating indirectly so as not to offend anyone.
While women have often been taught well to cloak a difficult message, not clearly stating issues in a tough conversation appears weak and deferential. It also leaves people unclear about what you were needing or requiring.
Leadership for women cannot be discussed without mentioning The Power Dead-Even Rule which is well described in the book, “In the Company of Women” by Pat Heim and Susan A. Murphy. It is an unspoken rule that women can witness and accidentally participate in, over and over if they are unaware of it. Many women, at heart, don’t really relate to hierarchy. They often believe that we are all in this together and all more or less at the same level. This creates particularly difficult dynamics on female teams when an internal woman is elevated. If not handled well, there is often indignation throughout the team, if not out and out rebellion, regarding why she got promoted. In order to successfully promote women it is critical that we understand this dynamic.
Executive coaching for women is a powerful tool in navigating organizational dynamics, and accelerating her won leadership strengths. In LDI’s programs we discuss successful strategies in dealing with all issues regarding women and leadership. We believe that developing women is essential to creating great organizations.
Read more about LDI’s women in leadership programs and classes.