by Angela Kambouris
The iconic song of the 1970’s feminist movement, ‘I am Woman’ has galvanized a generation of women to fight for change and today there is no better time for the fearless passion of women breaking through patriarchal norms. Despite women making up a fraction of global leaders, women can continue to lead the world in a sustainable direction. Credit Suisse’s CS Gender 3000 reported that in 2019 the percentage of women on boards globally increased to 20.6% and in the US the figure climbed to 24.1% from 22%.
Today, women comprise 25% of parliament around the world, 20 women hold the position as head of a state or government out of 193 nations and 32 (6.4%) of CEO positions at Fortune 500 Companies in the United States. Having more women in leadership positions can make a difference in improving outcomes, especially at times of crisis.
Women bring vision, collaboration, and empathy to the table. They turn closing doors into opportunities and forge new and better ways and are far more powerful than they think. Despite setbacks, sitting as the only female at the table, and working twice as hard for half the pay, they continue to fight a male-dominated system and forge their path to think beyond today and of the future.
When women stand in a position of power, you hold the door open for other women to step through. As we uplift other women, we strengthen our position. Here is how you get started.
Embody feminine leadership
Amid times of uncertainty, female leaders have paved the way with smart, compassionate, empathetic and kind leadership. Jacinda Ardern welcomed her first child in the world while in power, covered the costs of victims’ funerals after the Christchurch attack on two mosques and hosted live streams in her pyjamas discussing the difficulties ahead. She used her social media platform to create a path forward for other women to follow. The Norwegian Prime Minister Erna Solberg hosted press conferences for children letting them know it’s okay to experience fear. Authenticity, compassion, and clarity have proved far better indicators of trust than command, control, and bravado.
Drive business beyond profits
Purpose-led women leaders are committed to making an impact within their communities. Since 2014, Serena Williams, a global sports icon, invested in women and minority-owned businesses. Greta Thunberg, a climate change activist, informed world leaders at the UN National Assembly of how they had stolen her dreams and childhood with their empty words. She led the world’s largest climate change march and sailed across the Atlantic to get her message across.
Oprah Winfrey has been open about her traumatic childhood, turbulent relationship with her mother and her struggle to enter the journalism industry. Her experiences propelled her to rise above events and live her life by turning her wounds into wisdom. She has provided millions of dollars to charity, building schools for children in developing countries and established her foundations.
Together we rise
Empathy is the key to leadership. Empathetic and compassionate leaders perform better and inspire more loyalty, engagement, and productivity. Female leaders acknowledge the emotions and concerns of their people while supporting them to address them. Leaders must be present, engage in active listening and allow people the space to process their feelings. By implementing frequent check-ins with people, and beginning each coaching session by aligning a focus for the meeting, will serve as a north star for the discussion and enable you to redirect the conversation back to the focus topic. Linking employees to additional resources such as employee assistance hotlines can assist people when they are in emotional distress and require professional support.
Do not let the naysayers hold you back
The former First Lady, Michelle Obama has been a tremendous influence for women maintaining integrity and perseverance through racial bias and hurtful comments about her in the media. Despite the attacks, she addressed the childhood obesity epidemic, advocated for women’s rights, and provided support to military veterans and their families. Rather than investing her energy into malicious attacks, she demonstrated dignity by rising above the pettiness. People who invest in demoralizing and shaming people, their behaviour says more about them than the person on the receiving end as Michelle Obama responded “when someone acts like a bully, you don’t stoop to their level. No, our motto is when they go low, we go high.”
Show me the love
Female leaders are more open to inspiring others through gratitude by celebrating their people as much as they care about the business. Appreciating the contributions of individuals and teams collectively encourages people and inspires excellence. Leaders send personal notes to acknowledge client results, to highlighting through social media how they made a difference within the group. When leaders identify and celebrate people’s contributions, sharing how they precisely executed the company values, it inspires employees to strive for excellence.
Women can tap into their emotional intelligence to recognize and focus on what is essential. Rather than settling on the negative, they look for what they can control. Female leaders adapt to change while demonstrating empathy for others. By exercising various communication styles and being behaviorally flexible, women can build strong, emotional connections for long term sustainable partnerships.
Do not command, empathize.
Today’s leadership demands leaders establish an emotional connection with their people. We have humans at work that crave appreciation, recognition, and empathy. As talent agents, women leaders use feedback and direction to grow people. They invest in hiring people who are better than themselves, unlock other’s people potential and promote practical cooperation on their teams.
Carve out your path
As writer and philosopher, Ayn Rand wrote: “The question isn’t who’s going to let me; it’s who is going to stop me.” Women can elevate their careers by letting go of passive attitudes and illuminating their pathway. When it comes to career development, carve out your path towards success rather than waiting for the lucky break or the damsel-in-distress story.
Fall seven times, get up eight
No one is immune to personal failure. Jacinda Ardern once said, “you can be empathetic and have steel”. You can have moments of weakness, warmth, nerve, and strength. Acknowledging that it is okay to trip and fall, feel hurt and vulnerable, expose your flaws and imperfections, and then draw knowledge from the feedback and try again. You can break the glass ceiling without sacrificing warmth, kindness, and compassion.