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12 Leadership Qualities And Skills To Help Women Leaders In India Succeed

29May2019
12 Leadership Qualities And Skills To Help Women Leaders In India Succeed
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Learn how to become a top woman leader in India with this list of 12 leadership qualities and skills to help women leaders succeed.

Not to generalize but women seem to have a better capacity than men do, partly because of their socialization. ~ Barack Obama, former President of the United States

Not just Obama, but organisations around the world are recognizing the potential of women leaders in terms of their leadership skills and leadership ability. So do women make better leaders?

According to the Harvard Business Review, at every level, more women were rated by their peers, their bosses, their direct reports, and their other associates as better overall leaders than their male counterparts.

In fact, according to Harvard, women in leadership roles not only excel at leadership traits that are traditionally women’s strengths, such as nurturing, mentoring others, building relationships, exhibiting integrity and engaging in self-development.

Female leaders also scored higher in 12 of 16 leadership competencies including those of taking initiative and driving for results, which were previously considered male strengths.

Female world leaders were hailed as voices of reason amid the coronavirus chaos because of the calm and compassionate way they responded to outbreaks of the coronavirus in their countries.

In his book, Why Do So Many Incompetent Men Become Leaders? (And How to Fix It), author Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic, asks two powerful questions:

  • Why is it so easy for incompetent men to become leaders?
  • And why is it so hard for competent people – especially competent women – to advance?

Based on decades of rigorous research on types of leadership, he found that although men make up a majority of leaders, they underperform when compared with female leaders.

In his TED Talk below, Chamorro-Premuzic states that there’s a pathological mismatch between the qualities that seduce us in a leader and those that are needed to be an effective leader.

He shows that if leaders were selected on competence rather than confidence, humility rather than charisma, and integrity rather than narcissism, we would not just end up with more competent leaders, but also more women leaders.

In fact, he argues, the main obstacle preventing competent women from becoming leaders is the lack of career obstacles for incompetent men.

Chamorro-Premuzic offers the example of Angela Merkel as one of the most effective female political leaders of our time and one of the most powerful women in the world, despite lacking the charismatic leadership and bluster of many male leaders.

I didn’t always know what I wanted to do, but I knew the kind of woman I wanted to be. ~ Diane Von Furstenberg, American fashion designer.

One can also quote the example of women rulers like Queen Elizabeth II, who was once one of the most powerful women in the world and continues to perform her duties as the longest-lived and longest-reigning British monarch as well as the world’s longest-serving female head of state.

There are also many Indian women leaders in history who led their charges with quiet determination and no fanfare but went down as some of the great female leaders of the world.

In 2017, a study by Nordea showed that companies run by women perform far better than the market. They also found a higher number of companies with female CEOs in India, China and the United States.

Because of their female leadership traits and leadership styles, female business leaders have proven to be more adept in managing crises, more conservative in matters involving money, and skilled at managing clients and inter-team relationships.

But if women have such excellent leadership abilities, then why aren’t more women in leadership positions? This is because the unique challenges of women in leadership are not always easy to overcome.

5 Essential Factors Women Need To Succeed As Leaders

Here are the 5 essential factors that women need to succeed as leaders.

1. Self-Esteem

This is simple enough to understand. In a world where women are encouraged to follow feminine pursuits and treated as less capable than men, lack of self-esteem is almost an epidemic in women.

“Women systematically underestimate their own abilities,” says Facebook COO, Sheryl Sandberg in her TED Talk.  “Men attribute their success to themselves while women attribute it to other factors.”

Even high-achieving women lack self-esteem in one or more areas of their lives. This belief about oneself causes us to self-sabotage at crucial points in our lives, resulting in lost opportunities, abandoned plans and under-achievement.

2. Self-Worth

Self-worth is the belief that you deserve the best that life has to offer. Many cultures teach women that it is virtuous to be self-sacrificing and give up their own needs to support the needs of their spouses and children.

Our lack of self-worth shows up in many ways – in how we abuse our bodies, allow our needs to be undermined and ultimately, in giving up the choice of having the career or business of our dreams.

3. Assertiveness

A woman’s lack of assertiveness comes from being brought up to be “nice” and “non-argumentative.” We teach our daughters that it is inappropriate to speak their minds or ask for what they need.

“Women do not negotiate for themselves in the workforce,” says Facebook COO, Sheryl Sandberg. This makes it hard for women to ask for a raise or a promotion when she starts a career and makes her reluctant to ask for bigger fees or charge higher prices in her business.

4. Mentors

No one can grow in a business or career without having mentors or role models. The “old boys club” ensures that men get the mentorship they need in and out of the boardroom.

For women, however, the lack of strong female role models and women in leadership positions makes it much harder for them to get the guidance, coaching and mentorship they need within the organization.

5. Support

Although women are earning high salaries, many of them are still expected to manage the roles of wife, mother, cook and maid when they get home. Few spouses or families are supportive of their need to work long hours or travel on business.

“Women do three times the amount of childcare than men. As a society, we put more pressure on our boys to succeed than our girls,” says Facebook COO, Sheryl Sandberg.

The lack of support at home results in many women giving up their aspirations to grow in their careers, forcing them to underachieve and pass on promotions and raises.

But women also need support in the workplace. According to a LeanIn study on Women In The Workplace, the “broken rung” is the biggest obstacle women face in their careers.

The study found that women are less likely to be hired and promoted to manager, and for every 100 men promoted and hired to manager level, only 72 women are promoted and hired.

Conventional wisdom says that women hit a “glass ceiling” as they advance that prevents them from reaching senior leadership positions. In reality, the biggest obstacle that women face is the first step up to the manager or the “broken rung.”

This broken rung results in more women getting stuck at the entry-level and fewer women becoming managers.  To get to gender parity, companies need to focus their efforts at the first step up to manager, says the study.

According to the Harvard Business Review, leaders need to take a hard look at what gets in the way of promoting women in their organizations. Clearly, the unconscious bias that women don’t belong in senior-level positions plays a big role.

There’s a need for organizations to give more encouragement to women. Leaders can assure them of their competence and encourage them to seek promotions earlier in their careers.

One of our women empowerment goals is to support women in leadership. This article lists leadership qualities and skills to help women leaders in India succeed in their careers.

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12 Leadership Qualities And Skills That Women Leaders Need To Succeed

What is leadership? According to the dictionary leadership definition or meaning, it is the action of leading a group of people or an organization. But great women leaders who understand the importance of leadership learn how to lead themselves first.

As a leader of your organisation, you’re the one people look up to every day, the person your team sees as the problem solver.

A good business leader has leadership qualities that both benefit her and her team. She is the go-to person whenever there is a critical decision making or a plan that needs execution.

People can’t function properly if they aren’t properly managed. What then differentiates leadership and management from one another?

While management is about making sure that things run smoothly, effective leadership changes the way things or people work with the aim of improving the performance of the team or business.

Visionary leadership can inspire people to do things they once believed were impossible, help them resolve indecision or conflict, work to solve problems and assist the team in developing emotional literacy and emotional intelligence.

If you want to join the ranks of the successful women leaders, you need to start cultivating your own leadership qualities and demonstrating them, even if in a small way, to make your colleagues take you seriously.

Developing leadership skills will also ensure better opportunities in the workplace, but it means you must be prepared to take on bigger responsibilities.

This leadership qualities list charts the characteristics and qualities of a good leader who leads her team to success, accompanied by some inspiring leadership quotes by women leaders.

1. Leading by example

Strong women leaders know that they must practice what they preach and lead by example. It is important that a leader possesses the ability to self-motivate while motivating others.

To be a genuine role-model, successful female leaders know it is important to develop the ability to focus and motivate themselves as much as their team.

As an authentic leader, your sense of commitment to your work and your organization should go much deeper than your company slogan.

Organisations choose strong women leaders who have a strong sense of purpose for their persona, their abilities, and for leadership values that inspire and encourage employees to achieve their goal.

Create a plan to achieve your organizational goals and develop the ability to accomplish and measure them. Inspiring women leaders know how to translate their vision into words and action.

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2. Being dependable and exceeding expectations

Another of the leadership attributes you must possess is the ability to do your job with little or no supervision. If you set an example of doing a great job or performing above expectations, people will look up to you and follow your example.

You can establish your reputation and credibility by being the person they expect you to be, or better yet, exceeding their expectations altogether. This is a surefire way to prove your dependability and commitment to excellence, not only with your peers and managers but also with subordinates.

I never dreamed of success, I worked for it. ~ Estee Lauder, co-founder of Estée Lauder Companies.

3. Being emotionally intelligent

An authentic leader, as defined in Greek mythology, ‘knows thyself’ – accepting, being and remaining true to oneself. A leader is selected or accepted amongst a group, depending on how representative she is to people within that group.

A genuine leader acts in accord with her code of values, needs and preferences and in the process, freely expresses her core feelings and motivations. One of your leadership roles also includes the expectation to display a professional demeanour and behave maturely when you’re with your colleagues.

Not only are you setting an example for level-headed and emotionally intelligent leadership behaviours, but are also creating an environment for others to follow suit. Good business etiquette and cultural sensitization are essential when socializing with people from other cultures and nations.

Punctuality, the right body language, keen observation and listening abilities are some of the ground rules of thriving in the corporate world. They come in handy during business trips or boardroom meetings, as well as for socializing and networking.

Mindfulness meditation can boost self-awareness, emotional intelligence, emotional self-regulation, and resilience skills and learning mindfulness skills will make you a better leader.

You can learn mindfulness activities and cultivate mindful leadership with these free mindfulness workshops and courses.  Women who invest in their own personal development and learn to present themselves well are the ones given preference at promotion time.

An important attribute of success is to be yourself. Never hide what makes you, you. ~ Indra K Nooyi, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, PepsiCo.

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4. Being open to new ideas

Today, business changes at the speed of thought and a woman leader must be open to new ideas and recognize that there are better ways to do things.

Leaders add value to business by bringing in fresh, new ideas. It takes a lot of ideas to come up with a few executable ones that will succeed.

An effective leader will be able to work with fresh ideas – theirs, as well as those presented by other employees or peers and also identify, pursue and support good ideas.

Being an idea hunter and an idea worker will help you move up the leadership ladder and also help your organization grow smarter.

Being open to new ideas and adapting to changing trends is an example of good leadership skills and can take you a long way in your career.

Successful women leaders have the ability to initiate the ideation process and manage different ideas that could contribute to innovation.

My new motto is, when you are through changing, you are through. ~ Martha Stewart, American business magnate, writer, and television personality.

5. Being a life-long learner

Leadership skills do not grow out of a sudden epiphany. Though you might come up with great ideas, being a good leader also means being a life-long learner.

No matter how many degrees we earn, as far as life’s experiences are concerned, we forever remain students. There are certain situations or crises that any woman leader will have to face and most of these are not taught in business school.

Work on developing leadership strengths, leadership skills, and leadership competencies by participating in leadership courses, leadership training seminars, and leadership training programs.

Reading leadership books for women, learning from mentors, and participating in corporate women’s leadership programs will also help you develop leadership skills.

In addition, the skills, processes and tools taught in leadership development programs can bring value to other aspects of your life. Developing leadership skills will help you deal with the situations life throws at you, so you can work towards your goals more effectively.

Nothing in life is to be feared. It is only to be understood. ~ Marie Curie, physicist and chemist and the first woman to win a Nobel Prize.
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6. Conflict management and resolution

Being a business leader means being fair and just in making judgments that can help create a harmonious working environment and relationship with your team.

Some leaders may unwittingly lay down a system of rules that are unnecessarily restrictive. Eliminating these archaic practices will help you positively influence the people you work with and treat them with the compassion they deserve.

Being friendly with your subordinates while instilling discipline to get the job done is one of the best leadership values you can cultivate.

Negotiating and resolving conflict requires emotional intelligence – your ability to balance your emotional needs with your thinking. Managing conflict involves using skills such as rapport, empathy and listening.

Leadership is not manifested by coercion, even against the resented. Greatness is not manifested by unlimited pragmatism, which places such a high premium on the end justifying any means and any measures. ~ Margaret Chase Smith, American politician.

7. Making yourself indispensable

Acquiring influence and power in the workplace involves making yourself invaluable to the organization, and not just as a leader or manager.

You can make yourself indispensable by focusing on specific tasks that only you can master and that will add value to your team. This begins with you focusing on your job and doing it exceptionally well.

Go the extra mile when providing service or working on a project. Not only will you expand your influence but also your network of people who consider you a valuable associate.

Another way to expand your influence is to proactively seek out opportunities in terms of career advancement and growth by pursuing higher learning and acquiring an MBA or management degree.

You can also achieve this level of influence by innovating processes in your organisation or thinking up unique concepts and ideas to boost sales and productivity.

Mentoring Women Leaders

8. Delegating and motivating

Effective leadership skills include the ability to delegate tasks and motivate your team to do them. Assigning the best person for a specific task is crucial, but a leader’s support and encouragement is essential to boost team morale and engagement.

This can be explained with the analogy of a sports team selecting its captain. The captain is the leader of the team but when the players start the game on the field, the coach is the person they look to for motivation and direction.

The leader holds the responsibility of leading the team and ensures that the players play to the best of their abilities. The leader also organizes the team using effective methods and maximizes their coherency as a team.

You can delegate a project leader to oversee the progress of team tasks and give you daily updates on their progress. Give credit to the right person for a job well done and it will encourage others to follow suit.

A woman leader must have a broad idea of the different functions in business and the way they work together to delegate tasks to people so they can work together to achieve a goal.

9. Being a positive influence

One of the leadership strengths of great leaders is the ability to exhibit grace under pressure. A great woman leader takes things in her stride and sails through the situation with poise and grace instead of letting her self-esteem take a blow.

There will always be occasions when other members of your team are negative. But even when someone or something is affecting the mood and morale, young, will get more positive results and can transmit the same working attitude to their team.

While some people are optimistic by nature, a positive attitude is a trait that can be cultivated with time and practice.

If I’ve learnt one thing in the past is to save the energy I used to expend on being angry about injustice and put that energy into thinking and feeling joy, prosperity, sustainability, health and justice for all. This is what will change the world… a groundswell of people pouring their energy into manifesting their ‘preferred future’ instead of being worn down by disillusion and disappointment. ~ Molly Carlile, Author of Jelly Beans and Dead Serious Podcast Network.
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10. Learning to communicate well

Encourage open communication between you and your team members. You should always have time for suggestions and feedback to help maintain a good rapport with everyone.

Be aware of the issues and concerns of your people and be on the lookout for disagreements and unhealthy working attitudes.

Great female leaders learn how to speak confidently in front of an audience, or be interviewed by the media on topics involving the organization or on women’s leadership topics, should the occasion arise.

As part of your leadership skills training, you must learn to develop confidence with public speaking, and master the art of giving inspirational, memorable presentations in front of large audiences.

11. Self-promotion

Marketing yourself well acts as a catalyst in career development for women. Men usually do not have hang-ups in taking credit for their contribution to the company.

Women, however, are brought up to be modest and often feel hesitant to take credit for their contributions to the organization.

But there’s a difference between arrogance and self-promotion. You need to supplement your honesty and hard work with business acumen in order to climb the ladder to success.

Overcome your fears and limitations, objectively recognize your strengths and appreciate where you have done well. Get comfortable with accepting compliments and praise.

Learn assertiveness skills to say how you feel and stand up for yourself, comfortably and calmly. Start promoting yourself strategically, especially with the use of facts and figures that support your achievements.

No one gets to the top, if they sit on the sidelines, or if they don’t believe in themselves. ~ Sheryl Sandberg, COO of Facebook and author of Lean In: Women, Work and the Will to Lead.
No one gets to the top, if they sit on the sidelines, or if they don’t believe in themselves. ~ Sheryl Sandberg, COO of Facebook and author of Lean In.
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Image source Wikimedia

12. Mentoring young women leaders

One of the many potential leadership activities of females in leadership roles in leadership development and leadership talent transmission, which involves mentoring young leaders for success.

Women in leadership roles are in the best position to mentor young women starting out in their careers. You can teach them about the concept of leadership and the unique challenges faced by top women leaders.

You can create women leadership groups or a women’s leadership network to support young women who need help and guidance in their careers.

You can conduct leadership assessment programs, or leadership training and development programs for them. You can organize ‘women in leadership’ workshops or a women’s leadership conference.

As you yourself become a famous woman leader, you can even start a leadership academy and offer leadership courses and leadership coaching to nurture the next generation of women leaders.

Since online education is becoming more popular nowadays, you can also create women leadership programs or a leadership skills course with online leadership training videos, and reach young female leaders around the world.

The bottom line is that developing women leaders goes hand in hand with personal and self-development. As you grow in experience and wisdom, so will your career.

Author bio:

Priya Florence Shah is the Group Editor at SHEROES and author of Devi2Diva, an emotional self-care book for women.

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Also, read:

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Leadership Qualities And Skills To Help Women Leaders In India Succeed

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