As many women in the workforce have learned, you may find the deck stacked against you at some point in your quest to become a leader in your field. Simply being intelligent or hard-working sometimes doesn’t cut it when you’re up against preconceived notions of exactly how a female leader becomes successful. In fact, in S&P 500 companies, women only make up 6% of CEOs.
As we all know, there are a variety of leadership styles, personality types, and management tactics that both men and women have used over time, achieving varying degrees of success. However, women often boast different strengths in their leadership style than men. For example, Pew Research Center found that women are viewed as more compassionate and organized—leadership qualities that aren’t often viewed as strengths in men.
For women who have risen through the ranks and emerged as influential leaders, one thing is clear: they didn’t get there by accident. For ambitious women who want to hone their skills and earn their seat at the top, consider the following leadership skills that set powerful women apart.
Being an effective leader reaches beyond how you present yourself; it also has to do with your ability to make decisions and manage your team. As a result, emotional intelligence is a key quality that defines a leader. When you have higher emotional intelligence, you’re more likely to stay calm under pressure and react logically to a situation. As you handle major decisions in an executive role, your ability to stay composed and reasonable will set you apart from those who tend to react with their emotions.
Additionally, emotional intelligence includes your ability to read the body language and emotions of others and react with more empathy. As a leader, understanding your employees’ needs and opinions is critical to your success. When your team feels heard and valued by their superiors, you’re more likely to build a supportive and communicative environment to foster success.
Honesty, often an underrated quality in the workplace, should stem from every aspect of your work. When you live by this policy, your success will be much sweeter at the end of the road, knowing you were true to yourself. This includes voicing critical opinions when you disagree, sharing bold ideas even if they are shut down, and speaking up for yourself when you feel marginalized in the room. Additionally, keeping your integrity intact also involves holding yourself accountable—both in success and failure. When you make a mistake, own up to your faults and make an effort to learn from your errors. Similarly, when you achieve an impressive win, be sure that you are given credit for your efforts.
It’s no secret that women with ambitious goals sometimes face adversity in the workforce, but it’s their determination to continue on their path that will set them apart. When you’re faced with a difficult challenge, it’s important to avoid feeling like your task is impossible, but rather embrace what’s ahead of you as an important learning experience. When you’re determined to find a solution, you’re not only more likely to achieve your goals, but you’ll become more adaptable in the face of your next challenge.
Self-doubt is common among everyone faced with making important decisions—especially when there are people who may question those decisions. However, sometimes simply playing the role of confidence is all it takes to start developing that muscle. In addition to appearing confident through your body language, speaking boldly, being unapologetic in your decisions, and not asking permission can help you boost your confidence. The more you practice these habits, the more you’ll find that you stop “acting” confident and actually become confident.
No leader has achieved a great deal of success alone; it takes a team of people—but not just any team. Excellent leadership doesn’t simply stem from “owning the room” or being decisive—it’s also about being resourceful and knowing that you simply can’t solve every problem on your own. That’s why it’s important to create a culture of teamwork and collaboration, where you can look to others when you need help.
Building the right team, from hiring to fostering employee growth, can be difficult. Additionally, it doesn’t end with simply finding the most talented professional or the best culture fit; it also requires you to understand how to listen to your team, motivate them to do their best work, delegate tasks appropriately, and nurture each employee’s development. While few leaders can do this effectively, having your employees’ best interests in mind is often the key to creating a collaborative environment where good ideas can thrive.