Did you know that women today occupy just four percent of CEO spots at Fortune 500 companies (according to Catalyst.org)? That begs this question: Why aren’t women more represented in leadership positions?
Aside from promotional bias, I think part of the problem is that many women don’t have confidence in their ability to lead. I know I’ve struggled with this myself. This fear of failing reminds me of one of my favorite quotes by former First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt. In her 1960 missive, You Learn by Living, she wrote, “You must do the thing you think you cannot do.”
Whenever I’m feeling uncertain, those words help me to realize that I can do anything I put my mind to. Easier said than done though, right?
Trust me, you can become a strong female leader.
Let’s look at the traits of women who lead and how you can get there (in fact, don’t be surprised if you already embody some of these).
Step out of your comfort zone.
Don’t pass up opportunities because you’re scared. Be honest with yourself about your apprehension and what’s causing it – and then confront your fear head on.
And, don’t be afraid to go off-plan, as this Forbes article notes: “Stay nimble, have flexible expectations, and don’t try to map your life decades in advance only to find that you’ve foreclosed opportunity.”
This is all about believing in yourself. Obviously, it’s not something that can be forced; but it is something you can practice. Start with small everyday tasks that you have trouble with. For instance, does parallel parking scare you? Force yourself to do it until you get it right. Believe that you can do it and I promise you’ll succeed.
As Jerome Knyszewski writes in 7 Characteristics of Hugely Successful Female Leaders, “You either have confidence, or you will have to develop confidence within yourself in order to become truly successful. Start today to see the desired results faster!”
Stay true to yourself. It’s like that old saying: “If all your friends jumped off a bridge, would you?” Don’t do things because you think you have to, or because it’s what everyone else is doing. Trust your own instincts and let them guide your decisions. Great leaders are authentic; they are trailblazers, not followers.
Knyszewski says, “Hugely successful leaders do never copy others, but rather create extraordinary results through unique work, authenticity, a personal style and continuous expression of that uniqueness.”
Ask for help.
Women who lead aren’t afraid to ask for help. Because let’s face it, no one knows everything. And asking for help isn’t a sign of weakness – it’s smart! Part of being a leader is surrounding yourself with the talented, qualified people who can help you reach your goals.
It may be easier to think of asking for help as simply networking. As the Forbes article explains, networking “means building relationships with colleagues with whom you have something in common – giving, as well as asking for, input and advice from a community of colleagues you cultivate over time.”
Don’t give up.
I think this is the most important trait of women who lead. They never give up. They set their minds to something and they accomplish it. They act with purpose. Above all, they persevere. Whatever happens – failures, gains, losses, or wins – they keep their eyes on their ultimate goal. And inevitably, they accomplish it!
Do you see any of these leadership traits in yourself? Are you a woman who leads?