The Point: According to the Pew Research Center, there are few differences between men and women on key leadership traits such as intelligence, capacity for innovation, being compassionate, and organization. Today women represent only five percent (5%) of CEOs for Fortune 500 companies. So if that’s the case, why are the pipelines to C-Suite opportunities appearing to widen? In this post, we’ll look at four (4) critical lessons women in leadership can undertake to break-through the glass ceiling… Enjoy!
There Aren’t Opportunities Here for Women
Susie was a team leader for one of the organizations that I worked with on an executive coaching/leadership development engagement a few years back. I remember her, because sitting on the high potential selection committee allowed me to see that she was an exceptional candidate on paper, as well as in person. She was not only smart, but extremely extroverted and ready to take on any/all challenges on her desired path to the top of the organization.
So it was surprising for me to learn in a follow-up call that she was going to leave the organization that five years earlier she described as her “dream” company. What could have possibly happened? In our brief conversation I learned that while opportunities were talked of a lot, they rarely materialized in reality. In fact, Susie described the log-jam of women that were doing great things in the organization, but seemed to be bumping their heads against the proverbial glass ceiling. As such… She was moving on.
4 Critical Lessons for Women in Leadership
At the 9th annual “Women Who Lead” conference lessons are shared regarding leadership from high profile women. Here are four (4) critical lessons presented:
Lesson #1: You Control Your Self Image
Let’s face it, we live in an image-centric world! Constant reminders can be seen on television of “that” family that really doesn’t do anything, yet we’re somehow attempting to keep up with them… It makes no sense!
While it’s an easy trap to fall into, avoid looking at others and attempting to alter who you are by the way you look. While the experts suggested that you determine what your image is, what people not only treat you like, but what they call you.
Lesson #2: We All Must Get Along
Fortunately, or unfortunately depending on how you look at it, men and women both have to get along and work together. The advantages are numerous, but let me summarize them by saying that after every leadership development program I’ve identified that the perspectives each bring to the table are in fact different. Perhaps not as different as Mars or Venus, but different perspectives will bring about different methodologies that enhance the operation.
Lesson #3: Your Mindset = Your Success
If you have the right mindset, anything is possible. If you don’t have the right mindset, hardly anything is possible! Ensuring that you conduct the proper “check-up from the neck-up” is crucial if you want to continuously drive for success.
I typically have a conversation with executive coaching clients about goals, and ensuing targets along the way towards those goals. Most leaders, female and male alike, can typically rattle off these moments. It shouldn’t surprise you then to hear that when I ask them what their mindset will need to be like in order to accomplish those same goals that most get a confused look on their face… Almost like their mindset is an afterthought, or an outcome of accomplishing goals. This couldn’t be further from the truth.
Lesson #4: Become Risk Verse
What do you value as a leader? In executive coaching sessions I typically hear that most female leaders value a healthy balance of work and life. In the work-life, they value having alignment with the organization. Alignment within an organization specifically along goal, values, and culture components.
But what if you don’t have such alignment? What if you play it safe all the time? Remember, the spoils in life rarely ever go to the losers (and argue with me all you want, business is about winning!) Furthermore, spoils even more rarely go to those that play things safe (Read that as playing within your comfort zone!)
In this post we took a brief look at four (4) lessons that women can review in order to consider when pursuing leadership positions. Controlling your self image, working together with men/women, your mindset adjustment (if necessary), and accepting risk are all part of the equation. Think of these as mere “starting line” considerations, as the race to attain/sustain leadership positions can be a long one. Equipping yourself with the right foundational strategies for leadership success will ensure that you move in the right direction.