Last Spring, I was a speaker at Generation W, an annual event held in Jacksonville that inspires, educates and connects women of all generations. There were numerous quotes and presentations that inspired me that day, but, as a female entrepreneur, one quote really hit home. "Some of the best attributes of great leadership are actually more associated with women than men," stated New York Times bestselling author John Gerzema. In fact, his studies found that two-thirds of people think the world would be a better place if men thought more like women.
So, what are these "feminine values" that make for great leaders? Gerzema lists several in his study (humility, vulnerability, patience, etc.), but here are my top 3
leadership traits that women usually embrace more than men:
It sometimes takes more than logical thinking to make big decisions."Often you have to relay on intuition," said Bill Gates.
Intuition is a real, scientific thing. According to Clarion Enterprises, there is a connection between our gut and our right pre-frontal cortex that, "gives us access to the wisdom stored in our body." So that "hunch" you have regarding your next big deal? It is a combination of all the wisdom and understanding you have gained through your years of education and experience -- trusting that feeling will help you quickly act upon new opportunities and strategies.
Develop the Skill: Balance intuition with more logical decision-making strategies. After you have gathered and analyzed all the facts about a situation, take a step back and consider the decision based on your gut reaction and how you really feel about the next steps of the plan. Still not sure you trust your intuition? Use this process with smaller decision-making situations until you get comfortable with the feeling.
I love this definition of flexibility from The Air University, "Adapts behavior and work methods in response to new information, changing conditions, or unexpected obstacles." As an entrepreneur, I know firsthand that business is always changing and in order for my company to thrive I have to always be willing to look for new ideas and strategies. A flexible leader creates an environment of collaboration and a team of "problem solvers" who rarely think something cannot be done--they just might have to find a new way to do it better.
Develop this Skill: Create a culture of risk taking within your organization by empowering and engaging employees to be innovative thinkers and doers and communicating clearly how you will support their smart risk taking abilities. Read more here.
Empathy isn't about always agreeing with others, but being aware of how others feel about a situation and how it impacts their perceptions. By shifting the focus from our own thoughts and ideas to the thoughts of others, leaders are able to give employees what they need to succeed, build trust with their stakeholders and cultivate deeper relationships with their customers.
Develop this Skill: Practice the art of listening. Pay attention to the verbal and non-verbal cues from those on your team and those whom you serve, be fully present during conversations, take personal interest in those around you. This will help you see your brand and its mission beyond your own eyes -- opening you up to exciting new possibilities.
While it is easy to label leadership traits as being more masculine or feminine, it takes a mixture of both to make a great leader, regardless of the leader's gender--an Inc.com article stated that the ideal leader is positioned "between Mars and Venus". As entrepreneurs, we need to embrace all the qualities of good leaders -- helping us to not only build companies, but to build companies that will last and make a difference in our world.
This blogger graduated from Goldman Sachs' 10,000 Small Businesses program. Goldman Sachs is a partner of the What Is Working: Small Businesses section.