Learning who you are requires work, growing pains, as well as accomplishment and setbacks. Identifying who you are as a woman in the workplace can be one of the most challenging parts of the journey. Whether you are in a female-dominated vocation or the opposite, you’ve likely experienced how lonely the path to leadership can be. In fact, the higher you rise in your field, the less likely you are to feel that you can relate to those around you. The more successful you are, it’s likely that you’ll begin to see fewer and fewer female faces.
Popular culture dictates that to be a successful female worker, entrepreneur, business owner, boss, executive, etc., you need to be rigid. These narratives tell us that women who lead value their careers above family, romantic relationships or other pursuits; that to be taken seriously, she must be aggressive, mean, dismissive of other’s feelings and interested in her own accomplishments above all else. Ruling with an iron fist has been widely celebrated, but does it really have to be that way?
Strength has nothing to do with gender! Receiving recognition, being respected and valued has more to do with character, consistency and drive than we often realize. There five simple things women can do to gain leadership momentum in whatever career phase they are in:
- Say what you mean and mean what you say: The woman whose word means something, becomes a woman whose word is everything. What comes out of your mouth should be accepted as tried and true gold, firm and decisive. If you mess it up, admit it, apologize and move on. Never back track.
- Master the face-to-face: Insecure people hide behind technology when it comes to addressing conflict. A confident woman ditches the email, hangs up the phone, walks across the hall and addresses things head on. Her attitude is, “Let’s take a few minutes to talk about this and come up with a plan.”
- Stop trying to keep up with Sheila: The woman who is okay being uniquely herself, has an idea of her strengths and weaknesses and knows how she prefers to lead. She isn’t looking at what the next person is doing to make herself a carbon copy of them. Even if she doesn’t get it right every time, she knows that she’ll gain more respect by being authentic.
- Step out of the shadows: Leadership is not anonymous. It can’t be developed from the back room or operate exclusively behind a closed office door. Leadership walks, talks, has feelings and opinions. Leadership says hello in the morning and participates openly. The woman who desires to be taken seriously as a leader is not afraid to advocate for positive change.
- Be the master of your field: All leadership journeys are marathons, not sprints. She may take necessary breaks along the way, but a woman destined to lead, knows that she will forever be a student. She is researching, learning and training to be better at what she does with an aim to be the best. She is knowledgeable, but never closes herself off to the possibility that there is still more to learn. She is also willing to mentor and teach.