Lead Like a Girl: 10 Ways to Put Your Feminine Strengths to Work at Work, Part 2
As we move further into the 21st century, the face of leadership is becoming more and more feminine. Here, the co-author (along with 19 other women) of Leading Women: 20 Influential Women Share Their Secrets to Leadership, Business, and Life, shares 10 traditionally feminine strengths that make women ideally suited to take their place as leaders. This is part 2. Find part 1, with the first five strengths here.
6) Stop trying to network – instead, connect
Women love to make satisfying, mutually fulfilling connections with each other. (And we’re good at it!) That’s why the mile-wide, inch-deep world of social media, insincere business card exchanges, and traditional “What can you do for me?” networking often leaves us feeling cold.
The good news is that it’s easy to start asking instead, “What can we create together?” This is Connecting 2.0. It’s the powerful force behind the women-helping-women movement that is rapidly changing the playing field for women in business, government, education, philanthropy, and other fields. It feels good and it works.
There are so many ways to make authentic connections. You can gather successful women in your community and organize a roundtable discussion. You can collaborate with a different team at work. You can get involved with a philanthropic cause. The idea is to reach out to other women, offer to share resources, and see what happens.
7) Don’t be afraid to get a little personal
Historically, female leaders have tried to compensate for being the “emotional,” “soft” sex by keeping it all business, all the time. But women’s ability to nurture relationships can actually be a huge asset in a business context. The quality of a leader’s relationships with peers and employees can have a major impact on company culture and morale, and thus on productivity and growth.
Feminine skills such as showing empathy, being emotionally intelligent, being able to put others at ease, caring about their concerns, and more are now “must-have” abilities for leaders. These are not “soft skills.” They are actually quite difficult to learn and develop. As co-author Birute Regine points out, “No one ever succeeded in mastering relational intelligence during a two-hour seminar.”
8) Extend a helping hand, especially to other women
Women are natural collaborators. We know the significance of a helping hand, mutual support, and mentorship, and we value the satisfaction and meaning that come from aiding others. In the workplace, this ability can mean the difference between being a “boss” and being a “leader” – a distinction that creates employee buy-in and engagement.
Giving your time, knowledge, understanding, empathy, and support to other people can have a huge ROI. Be especially vigilant for opportunities to help other women by being a sponsor or mentor. This can lead to improved opportunities for both of you through reciprocity. Plus it sets a positive example and is good karma. Helping other women claim their power and passion is always a sound investment. When the hands that rock the cradle join together, they really can rule the world.
9) Use your collaboration skills to tap into “collective intelligence”
Successful collaboration is a lot more than just putting a group of people in a room and asking them to work together. As Regine notes, it requires participants to accurately read nonverbal cues and others’ emotions, to use empathy, to put ego aside, and to be sensitive to fairness and turn-taking. All of these are feminine skills. Without them, collaboration can easily devolve into groupthink and follow-the-leader. With them, though, a group becomes capable of “evolved thinking.”
Furthermore, says Regine, research shows that groups are most likely to display a level of creativity that’s greater than the sum of its parts when at least half the chairs around the table are occupied by women.
Women are adept at creating conditions of mutuality, equality, and trust – all of which are necessary for team members to feel comfortable enough to share ideas and take risks. That’s why it’s so important for women in leadership positions to reach out to bring other women into the fold. When we join forces, the benefits have a powerful ripple effect that extends well beyond the original participants. No individual woman is as creative, skilled, or powerful as we are together.
10) Trust yourself
From the way we dress to the jobs we do to the way we spend our time, society feels especially free to tell women how to live their lives. It’s very easy to internalize those voices and allow them to shape our choices, aspirations, and dreams – a path that leads to regret for too many women.
Trust yourself and listen to your instincts. They are usually right. Don’t let anyone make you doubt yourself by telling you what you “should” think or feel. One of the best ways I’ve found to stay on track is to stay present and turn on your senses. When facing opposition or making a decision, tune in to how you’re feeling, not just physically, but spiritually and emotionally too. If you’re headed in a good direction, you should feel alive and energized.
As women, it truly is our time to step up and take our place as leaders. When we focus on and hone our feminine skills, we can make a positive impact on our companies, our communities, and our world.
Nancy D. O’Reilly is an author of Leading Women: 20 Influential Women Share Their Secrets to Leadership, Business, and Life. As a clinical psychologist, motivational speaker, and women empowerment expert, she helps women create the satisfying and purposeful lives they want to benefit themselves, their families, and their communities. To help accomplish this, she founded and devotes her energies to fulfilling the mission of Women Connect4Good, a 501(c)3 foundation. To learn more, visit www.drnancyoreilly.com.
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