MOST INFLUENTIAL WOMEN 2012/13
Female Leadership Styles- How to Become a Better Leader
by Shalane van Rensburg
Over the last 10 years in my work with women, I have noted that there are 16 areas where women need to develop their leadership competencies to be assured of mastering their career in a confident manner. Should they do so, it is my belief that they would then be more able to fulfil their working potential and career aspirations. What is your level of effectiveness in relation to each of these areas?
We all need the right skills to perform our chosen job function. These skills are based on an understanding of supportive knowledge and are underpinned by experience to ensure comprehension of the relevant facts, concepts and principles to enable effective, efficient and (depending on your work level) operational, managerial or strategic delivery.
We exercise control in life by understanding how we process the information during the space between something which affects us and how we choose to respond. Personal mastery involves becoming aware of ourmental filters and respecting how we may balance the intellectual and emotional parts of ourselves. We need to understand how resilient or vulnerable our self-image is. Lastly, and most importantly, self-management involves being aware of what grounds us – what gives us meaning and has purpose for us. Personal mastery demands the courage to be authentic.
Branding theory tells us to focus on our strengths rather than our weaknesses. It is in the awareness, acceptance and development of these unique strengths that we may differentiate ourselves, and contribute to the world of work. Being aware of what makes you unique and memorable is critical in the world of work where people are constantly assessing whether you are worth doing business with. Image management is a crucial part of branding, as we are judged by our appearance, so make the most of your personal appearance.
Good, sustained and appropriate relationships are fundamental to business success. People who love people are most often comfortable around this concept, whereas introverts are somewhat wary of ‘using’ people and relationships to achieve a personal, selfish end. In truth, networking is about reciprocity in relationships. A successful networker believes that they have something of value to share with other people. Successful leaders network up to 45% of their time. Women, especially, need to differentiate between the need to be someone’s new best friend, versus simply being able to help one another out with access to information, resources and opportunities.
Knowing and being able to share what you know are two different competencies. It is vital to be able to formulate and present good ideas clearly and succinctly with a business perspective, in a boardroom for example. In a public forum, however, we need to come across as a person who has an amazing résumé and can deliver an engaging presentation.
The ability to respect the traditions, beliefs and cultures of people, irrespective of all races and creeds, is important. Effective leaders have progressed to a belief system where others are ‘simply different’, and they judge others based on their competence and values.
Negotiation is the process that takes place whenever we want something from someone else, who wants something from us. We have been negotiating since we were old enough to argue with our parents about whether or not we should eat our vegetables, or go to bed earlier or later. However, most of us become anxious the moment an interaction is labelled as a negotiation. Demystifying the process of negotiation and recognising that it is an everyday skill allows us to recognise opportunities, to negotiate and to emerge with a better deal all round, because negotiation is, by definition, a process that ensures a win-win outcome.
Self-esteem is simply a belief in oneself. A lack of self-esteem is at the epicentre of many personal mastery issues. Poor self-esteem may result in the avoidance of growth opportunities. It leads to the experiencing of guilt feelings when standing up for one’s rights. Sadly, not expressing how one truly feels results in stress and anxiety, and causes health problems. Good self-esteem allows us to feel secure; it grounds us, and gives us clarity regarding who we are and how we wish to be. Good self-esteem contributes to keeping our energy up, our attitude positive, and in pursuit of our goals. It also encourages us to respect ourselves and fulfil our unique greatness.
Liberation begins with women earning a living, be it through having a job or owning one’s own business. Once here, you are in a position to influence the course of your own life. Part of this journey involves the management of your personal and business finances. A person will always remain a small player in the economy unless they learn to manage their money, invest astutely and understand the principles of calculated risk and financial gearing.
Strategic thinking is vital for career advancement. Most often when doing well at work and hoping for career advancement, we may work harder and do more of the same in an effort to be noticed. This tactic often does not have the desired effect. What you need to do is study the next level of work and understand the competencies required there. You then need to learn and integrate these skills, make yourself visible and declare yourself competent, as well as then being prepared to take on more risk and responsibility.
Multiple roles are now played by both men and women. While gender equality sounds great, one of its unintended consequences is the creation of the superwoman syndrome. The consequence of being all things to all people is reflected in the radically increasing rates of heart attack, cancer, infertility and depression. To resist the constant pulls from everywhere, you need to determine where your priorities and own personal purpose and meaning lie. With this clarity, you can then prioritise and allocate energies accordingly.
Conflict Management and Assertiveness
Supportive, giving and nurturing behaviour is expected from girls, whereas boys are socialised into being assertive, independent, achieving, rational, competitive, and action-oriented. It is no surprise then that women struggle to express and assert themselves constructively. Although most people avoid conflict out of fear of discomfort, judgement, rejection and hurt, conflict is often an opportunity for creativity, innovation, clarification and strengthened relationships. The ability to view conflict positively and to be assertive is essential for career progression. The route to assertive behaviour is to knowand acknowledge your rights.
The truth is that, as soon as there are a number of people interacting in a workplace, the games will begin. So, political acumen in the world of work is essential. You may not be a political player, but you had better acknowledge that politics exists, analyse the game and determine your response. Having power and influence is an integral part of leadership. Politics is often construed as being about secrecy and subterfuge, and dirty tactics. The reality is that it can be about influence, collaboration, building relationships, openness, and a win-win orientation.
We learn through watching, sharing, reading, and other people’s experience. It’s a well-known fact that men use coaching often to further their careers, whereas women are reluctant to ask their superiors to invest in this type of development for them. Make an effort to find the right coach, one who can meet your career needs and personality. You’ll be surprised at the difference it could make to your career and life.
Resilience is an often overlooked, but vital, element of effective leadership. Resilience involves having a philosophical, pragmatic world-view, and it will enable the acceptance of what is, without straying from your own moral compass. Having an awareness of life’s developmental stages and striving for personal maturity make up a good part of the journey. The Buddhists put it best: “The mind is a wild horse; best you learn to ride it or it will ride you.”
Transformation, for me, is about the management of a process involving change plus people. It begins with an ending, is followed by chaos and flows into new beginnings. Being a leader requires an insight into one’s own responses to change, and the ability to facilitate people’s movement through transitional processes with sensitivity, support and confidence.