Women are paving the way for a new style of leadership that is confident, authentic, and highly effective. And yet, CNN Money reports that only 25 out of 500 companies in the S&P 500 have women CEO's. Thankfully, the comprehensive picture looks more promising.
The presence of women in C-Suite roles is certainly important but I am encouraged that more women are leading in other transformative ways. Leader is not just a job title - it's a set of strengths and a professional code of conduct that women are very well suited for. Organizations are actively seeking women for leadership roles and female entrepreneurs are starting businesses at a faster rate than any other time in history.
Hillary Clinton changed history as the first woman nominated for president by a major U.S. political party. She has also changed the perception of what women leaders can look like and how they can act.
Gone are the days when women leaders went to work in masculine suits, shortly cropped hair and sans makeup to blend in with the men in the office. Today, women leaders can embrace their own unique style, femininity, and not relinquish their strength, command, or executive presence required to be effective.
Here are some illustrations about why women are excellent and sought after leaders.
Emotional Intelligence Rules
Simply defined, Emotional Intelligence (EQ) is the ability to identify and manage your own emotions as well as recognize the emotions of others and groups. This path between feeling and reason is something women do particularly well. EQ is a predictor of professional success and personal excellence, according to Rita Allen, Executive Coach and expert on leadership. It also affects an organization's profitability and performance.
Women have heightened emotional intelligence because they tend to practice empathy to understand what others see, think, and feel. They understand and embrace differences and diversity of thought leads to stronger teams. A savvy leader is able to read the people dynamics, says, Rita Allen and then assess the needs involved and manage the situation effectively. Women are also adept at active listening and validate the individual speaking with their full focus and attention. They know the importance of listening with your ears and body language.
Women Get Stuff Done
The iconic SNL skit with Tina Fey riffing about how "bitches get stuff done" referring to Hillary Clinton's 2008 presidential run makes us laugh but the sentiment is clear. Women are efficient and effective leaders. They delegate by grooming and developing emerging leaders and use their vision, vulnerability, humility and collaboration to accomplish great things.
As the time honored African proverb says - "If you want to go quickly, go alone. If you want to go far, go together." Women know the power of teams and assemble and grow inclusive groups where people have authentic buy-in because their ideas matter, their input is valued, and they are acknowledged for their contributions.
Prioritize Developing Others
While strong women leaders are lifelong learners always eager to add new skills, experiences, and competencies to their professional toolkit - they also focus on developing others. A mentor taught me to ask this question regularly in order to help develop individuals on my team. How can I help you be more successful in this role? Coaching and developing others to play to their strengths is gratifying but the reverse mentorship and teachable moments are equally impactful to the leader in charge.
Communication Is Everything
Savvy women leaders know they have to customize how they communicate with each individual to honor their needs and personality. But there are 4 pillars of communication that women use successfully to deliver a message, which come from feminine leadership expert, Monique Tallon
• Ask for Input - make room for ideas from your team and collaborators.
• Stay Open - be willing to listen to all ideas to create an environment of inclusiveness. You may not act on every idea but your willingness to validate ideas by listening matters.
• Let it Roll - don't take it personally, develop a thick skin and know that not everybody will agree. That's OK.
• Be Humble - don't let your pride get in the way of good ideas coming from others. Be willing to admit mistakes and fail forward publicly so others can learn from your recovery and resilience.
Smart women leaders ask for help. One person rarely accomplishes great things alone but a team can accomplish extraordinary things together.
Women Get Better With Age
Gender and age bias is a significant hurdle for many women but a new organization argues that women over the age of 40 are not "past their prime." They're just getting started and have much more ahead of them than they do behind them. This message was celebrated with the 40 Women to Watch Over 40 list by honoring forty women who are disrupting, re-inventing, and making an impact, over the age of 40.
Christina Vuletta,VP of the Women's Digital Network at Forbes and Whitney Johnson, former Wall Street equity analyst and author of, "Disrupt Yourself: Putting the Power of Disruptive Innovation to Work", founded the list to challenge age stereotypes and raise awareness that "over 40" is, in fact, when many women come into their most productive era.
Winners were selected based on a rigorous application and judging process that evaluated three criteria:
• Impact: Are they creating growth or making an impact in their field of work, community and beyond?
• Role Model: Is this person a positive role model, through mentoring, leading by example innovating around work/ life issues or promoting women for leadership in business, board rooms, building diverse communities?
• Reinvention/Momentum: Are they engaged in personal disruption, taking on new challenges and harnessing the power of their experiences?
The 2016 Women To Watch Over 40 Honorees list was just released last month.
The Power of Failure and Recovery
Women are creative problem solvers motivated by challenges but they are also resilient when things don't go as planned. They handle crises with compassion and patience and can check their ego at the door when the going gets tough and they need to roll up their sleeves and do what ever it takes to solve the problem.
I'm not suggesting that women leaders are better than men - just that they lead differently and successfully. I also believe we need more women in leadership roles to strike a better balance in the career world. Women make up half the population - they make 80% of purchasing decisions and reflect the majority of consumer interests. Women are no longer the niche market - women are THE market and it's an exciting time for women in the career world.
I ask all women (and men!) to support a fellow woman in her pursuit of leadership. Throw the ladder down, across, and sideways to help another woman find her way.
Lead on women, you've got this!
Caroline Dowd-Higgins authored the book "This Is Not the Career I Ordered" now in the 2nd edition, and maintains the career reinvention blog of the same name. She is Executive Director of Career & Professional Development at the Indiana University Alumni Association and contributes to Huffington Post, AOL Jobs, Ellevate Network, and The Chronicle newspaper in Indiana. She hosts and produces an online show called: Thrive! about career & life empowerment for women on YouTube. Caroline also hosts the international podcast series Your Working Life - on iTunes. Follow her on Facebook, LinkedIn, Google+, and Twitter.