Originally Published in Forsyth Women Magazine
In 2017, Penelope Gazin and Kate Dwyer created a third cofounder for their online e-commerce platform: Keith Mann not only got more email responses from potential investors and partners, he got more respect. Never mind he didn’t show up, ever – and ONLY communicated via email. Gazin and Dwyer faced everything from investors refusing to acknowledge them by name to developers threatening to delete everything if they didn’t get a date. No wonder they created Mr. Mann.
Unfortunately, this is consistent throughout leadership and entrepreneurship: women are just 5% of Fortune 500 CEOs, and those statistics are reflected across the board. Women aren’t being seen as leaders in organizations, and if they get there, they often end up feeling imposter syndrome. As funny as Mr. Mann might be, it’s not a recommended strategy for leadership. Here are three ways you can start leading like a woman:
- Find your best qualities
Repeat after me: stop trying to be a second rate version of someone else. You’re wasting the first-rate version of yourself. Not all leaders have the same qualities! Gone are the days of every leader wearing a suit and walking in with their briefcase and coffee in the morning, off to sit in their office and order from on high. Leadership looks different on everyone!
Take a few minutes thinking about a leader you admire. Write down a few of their qualities that you also possess. You can definitely strive for being better and improvement: build your foundation first with your qualities. Maybe you’re an amazing delegator or a great listener. Note those qualities and bump them up! You can build additional skills on top of your foundation: you need something to build on first.
- Listen first, talk second
No matter what kind of leader you are or strive to be, you need to listen. Spend as much time as possible developing your active listening skills – and using them! If you find yourself losing some of those critical listening skills, step back. When someone is talking, try to remember two bits of information and figure out one question to ask to get more information about what they are saying. Before you even start tasking yourself while you’re listening, be sure you’re actually listening and showing it through non-verbals: nodding, making eye contact and facing another person are simple and powerful ways to show that you are indeed listening to the person talking.
If you know you are not a great listener, remember listening is a choice: it’s not something that you naturally do. When someone is starting to talk to you, take a breath and make the choice to listen.
- Professional Development
Remember that list you made about the qualities you admired from a leader in your life? Take stock in that and start growing. Professional development programs can be in person, online, created by you or by someone else – the sky is the limit! Do your research before you jump in.
The larger focus with professional development: growth. Great leaders don’t stagnate. You have to keep learning, evolving and changing with your team. Professional development isn’t simply recreating another great leader: it’s staying up to date with what’s happening in your field, with your team and with leadership as a whole. Find articles, read books, have a conversation and talk to your team. Pay attention and again, make a choice to be engaged with the process. Your work doesn’t end when you get the leadership position, it begins.
Now that you’re at the end, the jig is up: there is no way to lead like a woman. You have amazing qualities that you need to succeed!