There’s no room for wallflowers in the business ballroom. He who leads will win. But what about she who leads? When it comes to the leadership dance, are we destined to follow while men dictate the pace?
Until recently, women pursuing leadership positions often had to emulate men to fit the existing power paradigm. However, that leadership dynamic is shifting fast. In 2013, women made up 23 percent of all entrepreneurs seeking angel capital, and our goal is to drastically increase that number. According to John Gerzema and Michael D’Antonio’s book “The Athena Doctrine: How Women (and the Men Who Think Like Them) Will Rule the Future,” business is quickly becoming a woman’s world. In fact, of the 64,000 people surveyed across 13 different nations in the book, two-thirds told the authors that they believed the world would be a better place if men thought more like women!
The best way for you to lead as a woman in this changing world is to resist the urge to “fit in.” Instead, create new systems, new ways of thinking and new innovations that break the mold. Be bold. Be you. When women (or anyone) empower themselves to be themselves and break out of any pre-defined molds, great things happen.
What Does It Mean to “Lead Like a Woman?”
Leading like a woman means being yourself. It took a while for this to sink in for me personally, but by allowing yourself (in all your glory!) to shine through whether you’re at a business meeting or romantic dinner, you’ll be more inspiring, magnetic and attractive to the people you’re with. Thus, you’ll naturally be more influential, build stronger teams and make a more powerful difference. Here are five ways to help you conceptualize “leading like a woman.”
- Embrace your “feminine” qualities. Let’s be honest. Qualities more commonly associated with women than men — including empathy, compassion, directness in communication, vulnerability and even kindness — haven’t traditionally been qualities that were considered successful in the boardroom. However, in our increasingly connected world, what the research is showing is that people care more about these qualities now than ever before. We’ve moved from the industrial age to the information age, and it’s not necessary to be a “robot” with your emotions or solely play “hardball” in order to be a business tycoon. Your employees, clients and partners want to know you – the real you – which brings us to our next point.
- Be true to yourself. Too many of us spend our lives wearing masks to conceal our true selves. Countless women I’ve interviewed say things like “Yeah, I’m successful…but I just don’t feel like me.” I believe this is because women have traditionally been encouraged to emulate masculine leadership qualities in order to be “successful.” As a result, we try way too hard to be taken seriously, end up never feeling at peace with ourselves and are never able to shine as bright as we were meant to! But the paradigm is shifting. Authenticity is in fashion, so let’s take advantage of it! Being open about your values, your style and your thoughts is the best way to do business today.
- Align your business values with your personal values. Working your butt off for a purpose or cause that is not aligned with who you are or the change you want to see in the world will ultimately leave you drained and incomplete. Building a business that’s fully aligned with your values allows you to be a force for positivity, and you’ll have more energy every day. And as an added bonus: when you start using your time to achieve your real goals, you’ll start loving your work. Lines between work and play will start to blur. You’ll feel less of a need for “balance” and embrace more fluidity to your life that leaves you inspired, inspiring and purposeful.
- Share your story. Leaders inevitably have stories about how they achieved success. Your story might not seem special to you, but it is! Sharing that story to connect authentically with your staff, clients and investors is a critical part of a leading like a woman.
- Paint your own vision. It’s time to break out of any old belief system of what’s “realistic” or “practical.” No one has ever achieved great things or had any fun by being practical. Your goals are completely unique, your path is unique and your communication style is unique. Paint your own vision, hold that vision and go take inspired action! If ever there were an era for women to succeed, it’s now.
The news is full of examples of women who are leading the business ballroom by being themselves and forming new models, new systems, new rules and new definitions of leadership.
Marianne Williamson is an example of a strong businesswoman who goes against the grain. She has proclaimed, even while running for Congress, that “love should be the bottom line,” clearly a radical — but aligned — statement. She has a huge and loyal following on social media, and she continues to expand her reach and her brand without “fitting in or fighting.” Instead, she’s staying true to herself.
Oprah is another great (if obvious) example. She’s done things her way for a while now, and her ethics and leadership are a constant source of inspiration for women everywhere, despite her naysayers.
The point is that sustainable success will not come from fitting into anybody else’s mold. It’s imperative that you live your own life and lead like the woman you are.
Sumi Krishnan is the President and Founder of K4 Solutions, Inc; a $20 million dollar consulting firm with more than 200 employees across the country. Her firm works with clients such as U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and Homeland Security. Sumi now has a passion for working with other business owners (particularly women) to help them thrive in life while creating killer businesses that do meaningful work. You can find out more about her and how she supports other women business owners here: www.sumikrishnan.com/work-with-me.
BusinessCollective, launched in partnership with Citi, is a virtual mentorship program powered by North America’s most ambitious young thought leaders, entrepreneurs, executives and small business owners.