Historically, we’ve had some amazing women leaders, from Elizabeth I to Oprah, women have inspired other women across the centuries and proved that we can achieve our goals.
Not that aspirations and achievement come easy. The excitement of being in charge is often a great motivator to succeed, but the responsibilities attached to being a successful leader, on top of those commitments in your personal life, can be challenging for many women.
Associated with high-stress, demanding leadership positions are often a challenging goal to achieve while trying to attain an excellent work-life balance. It can quickly wear you down.
So, how do those women who have made it to the top of their careers and are embracing successful leadership cope? Here we look at the seven secrets behind every successful businesswoman.
1. Be Authentic
Although there are many more women in senior positions now, I’m sure if you’re a woman reading this, you’ve had the experience of walking into a seminar or meeting where you can count the number of women on one hand. It can be unnerving.
It can lead women to take on a more ‘male’ attitude to fit in and be taken seriously. Because of this, women at the top have gained a reputation for often being aggressive and competitive, even bullying in some circumstance.
Remain true to yourself and find your own way of doing things. After all, you got to your position by engaging your strengths as an individual. You don’t need to compromise who you are. Ever.
2. Get Support
It can be hard to cut a path to the top for women. The old saying ‘It‘s not what you know, it’s who you know’ still applies in many cases and breaking through the barriers of what feels like an ‘Old Boys Club’ can be daunting.
You may find it difficult sometimes to be taken seriously by their male counterparts. It’s still very much a male–dominated world in the C-Suite. Concentrate on building confidence to overcome your challenges.
According to Inc, 48% of female founders reported a lack of available advisers and limited mentor opportunities hampered their personal growth. No surprises there.
Joining women entrepreneur groups can bolster your self-worth and provide mentors and peers to inspire you. A support system like this can give you a reality check on your abilities and boost your determination to succeed.
Surrounding yourself with people who will cheer you on will give you a much higher chance of success. Don’t be afraid to make the most of this.
3. Acknowledge Your Success
Many women (it seems to be a female trait) use ‘we’ when they really mean ‘I’. It seems such a small thing, but I find myself doing it too.
Using the first person when talking about success can feel like bragging, but owning your achievements is an integral part of being in charge. Value your accomplishments and be confident in expressing them. Boldness is the key to success.
4. Maintain a Work-Life Balance
With great power comes great responsibility. And with mobile phones and tablets comes greater expectation that as a leader you will be on call 24/7.
It’s part and parcel of being at the top of the career tree, but top female leaders know it’s crucial to allow themselves time to completely disconnect from work. Allocating time in your schedule for downtime will enable you to keep yourself sane and avoid burnout.
So, manage your stress levels and be wary of high levels of self-criticism and striving for perfection in everything you do.
Make time for your family and stick to those times. It’s an important lesson for your children to learn that if you say you’ll be there at 4pm to watch their cricket match, you show up. It teaches them respect and the importance of good timekeeping and who doesn’t think those are ethical values to instil in your child?
Use the technology that’s available to allow yourself time away from the office, but which keeps you in touch with what’s going on. So, you can touch base with your team and deal with any problems that arise, but still have a bit of time to yourself.
Finally, the best female leaders have an extensive support network at home, be that partners, children, extended family or friends. Be appreciative of the assistance your family and friends offer to make your life a bit easier and they will be there when you need a helping hand.
5. Be Resilient
Don’t be afraid of failure. It can happen in any business, but female insecurities sometimes prevent individuals from reaching for their dreams. View your setbacks as a learning curve and acknowledge them, see what you can take from the experience, and then move forward.
Getting out of your comfort zone will bolster your resilience and provide you with the push to achieve greater things. It will confirm your belief that you can do it, enabling you to throw your hat in the ring confidently. Fear of the unknown is a factor in every successful person’s journey and to acknowledge that fear is to take its power away and allow you to move forward regardless.
Ever had that moment of exhilaration when you take a run and jump off the top board into the pool?
Well, ok, that’s my example! Yours may be taking your first flight or presenting at a conference for the first time. The end result is the same, though. The rush you feel doing something a bit scary – that’s the energy boost you get when you leave your comfort zone behind.
Remember, you’re never too young to move forward or too old to achieve great things!
6. Don’t Take Things (or Yourself) Too Seriously
“Girls are taught to play it safe, smile pretty and get all A’s, boys are taught to play rough and swing high. In other words, we’re raising our girls to be perfect, and we’re raising our boys to be brave” (Ted Talk by Reshma Saujani, founder and CEO of Girls Who Code)
Women set very high benchmarks for themselves. Even ambitious women are sometimes disappointed because they set their levels of perfection too high.
Men, on the other hand, are naturally inclined to take risks and therefore, more likely to achieve greater things.
Acknowledging your perfection ideals but allowing yourself to run the risk of failure will enable you to grow and learn. So, don’t aim for unachievable perfection, be brave and grab opportunities.
7. Inspire Others
To succeed as a female leader, you will be passionate about what you do, believing in your company’s mission and inspiring that passion in the people who surround and work for you. It can be challenging, least not daunting, to help others set and attain goals, and to motivate employees to work collaboratively to achieve aspirations.
Women’s natural ability to nurture others plays well to your ability to help others succeed. It’s natural for you to emphasise teamwork, to build confidence and to encourage personal development in others. More geared to group consciousness than most men, female leaders’ natural strengths in this area enable them to create stronger teams, which naturally leads to better workplace morale, higher retention rates for employees and helps to close the gender equality gap.
As a leader, you can inspire other women and provide a role model for them to follow. It’s tough at times and can be exhausting, but the rewards are immense. So remember; however you feel – get up, get dressed and show up.
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