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Five ways for women to take the reins on their leadership development

8th Oct 2018
Director Unimenta
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horse with female rider jumping over hurdle
Zocha_K/iStock
horse with female rider jumping over hurdle

In addition to the demanding tasks and huge responsibility placed on all leaders, women leaders have additional challenges to contend with. Here are five ways to approach these obstacles and develop further in your leadership role.

My niece has just co-written a brand new BBC book Doctor Who: The Women Who Lived, Amazing Tales for Future Time Lords celebrating the various female characters who have featured in Dr Who over the years.

Whether they’re facing down Daleks or thwarting a Nestene invasion, these women don’t hang around waiting to be rescued – they roll their sleeves up and get stuck in.

Scientists and soldiers, queens and canteen workers, they don’t let anything hold them back and are strong leaders.

Yet, we are only now going to experience the very first female Dr Who – surely the strongest leader of all?

Women in leadership positions are still few and far between and those that are often face criticism and put-downs for leading with their leadership skills openly described as 'bossy', 'domineering' or even 'aggressive'.

These same skills in a man might be heralded as authoritative, commanding, heroic and inspiring. I know this because I have experienced it myself.

So, there are some big challenges women face when it comes to achieving leadership roles and being supported and acknowledged positively when they demonstrate leadership skills.

What are some of the things we can do about it? Here’s what I’ve learned along the way:

1. Speak up

Equality is a big one because in the workplace it still does not exist. So you have to be prepared to cultivate strong resilience and really go for what you want.

Get the skills to grab leadership opportunities when they come your way – whether that is through professional development, emotional intelligence, stronger self-awareness or communication skills, get what you need.

Women are very good at not charging enough, being afraid to ask, under-pricing and giving away services for free. 

It's not enough to be in a role or to sit at the table. You must be able to speak confidently, regardless of odds faced. Speak up and be heard.

2. Value yourself financially

If you run your own business learn to focus on what is generating revenue. Otherwise you don’t have a business, you have a hobby.

That’s a harsh thing to hear but it’s the best advice I ever got from a potential investor. So, yes, follow your dreams, your passion but also – follow the money!

Women are very good at not charging enough, being afraid to ask, under-pricing and giving away services for free. 

3. Get confident

You need to get comfortable knowing that people will always try to take you off 'your game' or dislike you for no apparent reason.

Never shy away from speaking about your achievements. If you’re in the room, you deserve to be there and you’ve got something valuable to offer.

But if you go in knowing this, if you are clear on your purpose and on what you are trying to achieve, then you will be successful in getting what you want. Also – take as many opportunities as you can to get out of your comfort zone, take risks and make mistakes. These are the best ways to learn and grow more confident.

4. Trust yourself

An amazing vocal coach I know uses this mantra to get people to sing, for their voices to be heard. Many of us have an inner voice whispering “who am I to….”.

Never shy away from speaking about your achievements. If you’re in the room, you deserve to be there and you’ve got something valuable to offer.

Own it! Trusting yourself is also about not second-guessing everything. Start where you are, voice your ideas and get more used to the sound of your own voice too.

5. Be more aware of word choice

This is the difference between being perceived as a respected leader versus a bossy woman. You cannot control other’s decisions to interpret your actions in whatever way they choose to, but you can control how you communicate and get your point across.

That’s done by being present, really listening and avoiding the use of judgemental or overly emotional words. How you communicate will positively influence how you are perceived.

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