“Building Power as a Female Executive”
I recently had the privilege of speaking at the 9th Annual Virginia Women’s Business Conference where I met amazing women leaders and entrepreneurs. I spoke about building power as a female executive, a topic dear to my heart.
Anyone who knows me, knows that I believe in the power of women.
I believe that women have a unique perspective for leadership, and I truly believe women can shape the future of the workplace.
And I believe that the biggest key to building power is to surround yourself with powerful people.
Women executives lead busy lives and deal with complicated business situations. Add to this, women often are in charge of family responsibilities. So, it is very easy to forego “discretionary” tasks like networking meetings. But it is a proven fact that the time you spend on networking has a direct impact on your status and power.
I learned a long time ago that successful women, those who shape their own destiny and disrupt the workplace, understand the power of networking. They know that strategic networking creates what is known as a “virtuous cycle”, a chain of events that build on themselves. It goes like this:
- a powerful network increases your visibility;
- visibility increases your power and status,
- which in turn increases your ability to build and maintain the right relationships
- and with those relationship, get more done through them.
I don’t remember who said it, but I agree with the sentiment: "even the Lone Ranger didn't do it alone."
And I have seen it time and again, women enhance their power when they build the right network and, for me, that means developing a “toolkit.” Let’s call it a Power Networking Leadership Toolkit.
There are some tools I believe are basic, yet essential, to include if you’re going to get the greatest value from the toolkit. Three “must haves” are: understanding the power of relationships, understanding the power of social networks, and leveraging the power of your image and communication styles – how you come across to others.
As women, we must recognize that building power and having power are a natural state for leaders. Unfortunately, women sometimes view power as selfish, and often equate power with force. Men don’t seem to have that problem.
On the other hand, our leadership style is naturally more collaborative than men’s.
We need to recognize and accept that our ability to collaborate is a strength.
Women are relationship and network builders. We are REALLY, REALLY good at it!
Let me share my own experience.
I wanted to get more involved in the tech industry, a sector where there are few women at the top. I came out of the executive search business and had an extensive network. So, I reached back into my executive search contacts and called a CEO I placed in a major tech trade association. I asked him to introduce me to the two people I wanted to meet.
Not only did I get the introductions, but they also led to invitations to speak at their conferences, and work with their webinar services for women in tech. I also received two more introductions from a well-respected CEO in the tech sector.
So truly understanding how deep your network is in your industry is key to getting introduced to the power players. And, it should include strategic connections that could help you cross into another industry.
Another piece of your power networking leadership toolkit is understanding the power and influence of social networks
Even today, many women executives are skeptical about social media. They often don’t know how to use this powerful tool…or don’t understand how it can help advance themselves or their business.
Remember Ariana Huffington!
She built an empire on her relationships with people. Ariana started Huffington Post after an unsuccessful run for California governor. And what she learned was the power of the internet, how to harness it, and how to monetize it. The rest is history.
As a female executive, you need a well-crafted social media strategy to build and maintain a power network. This social network will raise your voice and image above the increasingly competitive “crowd noise.”
By including social media in your expanding toolkit, you are addressing two of the most important aspects of leadership: strengthening your reputation as a leader, and enhancing your company’s brand.
My social media director has tripled my personal brand and business profile. I get calls to speak or lead workshops on women’s leadership because I have a brand in women’s leadership. Thank you, Gail!
That leads me to the final tool: your personal presence. Crafting an authentic personal brand is one of the strongest keys to executive presence.
We make impressions on people instantly – whether good or bad – and most are based on nonverbal communication:
- the way you hold yourself,
- your voice and your tone.
- It’s important to be aware of how you come across and to be able to adjust it.
Powerful people are expansive in their body language.
They take up space and signal that they have the status in the room.
Sadly, most women make themselves smaller.
Amy Cuddy, in her book, Presence, teaches us how to access our personal power and bring our “boldest self to your biggest challenges” so we can confidently achieve our goal.
Standing in a posture of confidence, even when we don't feel confident — can boost feelings of confidence, and could impact our chances for success.
Standing with your arms outstretched to the sky! Or the Hands on the hip-“power pose”! You know that pose – we use them in all the photos today on Instagram! “Wonder Woman”
These small changes are subtle, but they convey your presence to others as well as give you more confidence.
You are a powerful female executive! Isn’t it time to strike your own “Power” pose?