Being a woman in leadership doesn’t require that you channel your inner mean girl or put on your best bro face and impersonate a man– even though that’s what we have all been taught to do. You can break free from the imitations and be an amazing leader by embracing the unique traits we as women possess, using your innate empathy, kindness and intuition to your advantage.
Part of the awful Eighties fashion trend that was the shoulder pad was partly due to the mistaken belief that women had to dress more like men in order to be taken seriously. Books like The Devil Wears Prada and numerous other stories don’t exactly help to dispel the myth of the she-wolf in the corner office. To a large extent we have all bought into the BS that in order to be taken seriously as a leader, we can’t afford to show any kind of emotion. When we do, we are ‘having a meltdown’ or ‘having an outburst” (think Serena Williams), but when men do it, they are ‘vocally and passionately defending their position’ (Brett Kavanaugh).
All that these messages do, is convince us that we cannot show any emotion or admit to trusting our intuition and we hide the warmth that we naturally have. The truth is that the world needs more authentic humanity. We need more empathy and less mean. We need more ‘real’ and less #nofilter presentations of perfection. Being kind and showing empathy to others or trusting your intuition or showing some vulnerability and asking for help doesn’t detract from your true power – in fact, it makes you a better person and a better leader. Here are some tips to get you embracing your authenticity and leading like a true girl boss:
Figure out who you truly are, underneath all the BS that society has led you to believe and be aware of all the unconscious biases you may have. I recommend that you work with a coach or that you do some work on your own to uncover your personality type, your values and your preferred leadership and communication styles. People can always spot a fake a mile away and they respond much better when they know they are dealing with someone who is authentic and who is comfortable with who she is and who owns what she believes.
Be Kind and Empathetic
No matter who you are or how important your job is, there is nothing in this world stopping you from simply being kind and showing empathy for others. Showing empathy requires that we truly listen to the stories of others and that we understand on a very deep level that all human beings have a story they don’t tell or pain that they are hiding and if the circumstances were different, it could easily have been us in their shoes. People have a deep need to feel heard and they will always remember how you made them feel safe and supported in their darkest hour. Say please and thank you. Learn people’s names and make eye contact when you flash them a smile – show them that they matter and that you truly see them as a unique human being.
Be a Good Communicator
We often make assumptions because we are too scared to clarify intentions or we are afraid we will come across as incompetent if we ask questions. Learn how to communicate clearly and with empathy – even if you are having a really difficult conversation. In her book ‘Radical Candor’ Kim Scott gives some great tips on how to give feedback and how to have difficult conversations with colleagues and team members, without losing the human touch and without being a monster who makes the recipient of feedback, feel small.
Be Truthful and Trustworthy
It’s not always easy steering clear of the office gossip or spreading the news about a colleague who dropped the ball. Thing is that true leaders don’t have time for gossip or drama and they spend their time working towards their goals and building others up. Don’t be tempted to gossip or become involved in name-calling, body shaming or any other activity that breaks people down. Instead, prove yourself to be trustworthy and discreet and offer genuine support and advice. You will find yourself climbing that corporate ladder in record time and you will find a lot more colleagues and team members supporting you as you rise to the top.
Be a Mentor and a Role Model
Arguably one of our most important goals as women in leadership is to empower other women and create more female leaders. Find out whether your company offers a mentorship program or whether you can start one. Take a younger woman under your wing and help her navigate the corporate jungle. Teach her to be a kind bad-ass and that it’s ok to lead with heart.
This ties back to authenticity. See, none of us are perfect and none of us have all the answers. It’s ok to ask for help and it’s ok to tell people we don’t know everything or we don’t have all our shit together. Vulnerability is what makes us human and keeps us authentic. I know it’s super hard, especially in our world of Pinterest perfection, where #nofilter on Insta may be a true statement, but with the filters already built into our smartphone cameras, the pictures aren’t exactly a 100% true reflection of reality.
As a woman in leadership, it’s important that you find your own voice and don’t try and imitate anyone else. Your strength and power lies in your vulnerability your empathy, your kindness and your unique worldview. Being kind, truly listening to people and understanding that you get to lead because they allow you to, doesn’t’ take anything away from you and in fact, makes you a better leader and a better person.