Many women believe that in order to lead and manage, they must be like men. Deborah Evans explains…
We tend to associate leadership capabilities with masculinity. Our managers are frequently men and since we see more men than women in leadership roles, we believe that what men do must equal success.
By emulating our male counterparts rather than having confidence in our own capabilities, we create a dissonance between our natural behavioural style and how we believe we should be. This creates stress and confuses those around us – they feel this incongruence and we are seen as lacking authenticity.
If we are to focus on our natural leadership traits, what are they?
Women tend to look for a win-win and find ways to discover how we can all work together to create a situation that benefits all. Women are natural collaborators and lean towards seeking the views of others to find solutions. This can be difficult if you are working with others who prefer to ‘win’ whatever the loss to the other party but accepting that all parties can win, makes it easier for women leaders to negotiate and find creative resolutions to a compromise.
Bringing diversity of thinking
Men and women do think differently, and the more diverse the backgrounds and gender of a group of people, the more likely new and innovative ideas can be generated. The evidence shows that diversity leads to better decision-making and improvements in profits. This is particularly true in retail where women are the major consumers and therefore more likely to understand the customer.
Resilience and perseverance
Women are innately equipped to be resilient in the face of change and are able to adapt to different situations. With the pace of change accelerating, adaptability and flexibility in business will be even more important to take on new challenges. Women have the strength to overcome negative remarks, fight for what they believe in and learn from failure.
Putting ego aside and seeing the other person for who he or she is, demonstrating empathy and fostering trust are all important qualities to build sustainable relationships. Our culture has nurtured this in women and it can be a significant strength in business. Creating networks and communities is an important element of stakeholder management, ensuring the right people are engaged and involved.
Women tend to be protective of others – their children, spouses, friends, co-workers and strangers. We understand that to lead, is to serve. The leader’s role is to develop, inspire, hold accountable and get results from their team; women encourage others to make mistakes and learn from them.
Of course, there will be many men who also exhibit these leadership qualities. Every person, whatever their gender, has their own strengths and weaknesses and self-awareness helps them to face their own biases.
If you are developing your leadership skills as a woman, consider the following to enhance your natural strengths:
Know who you are
Being clear about who you are, what you value and what drives you makes you centred and more believable. Unless you are clear about what you stand for and where you are heading, you won’t be able to take others with you. Ask yourself:
· What do you value about yourself?
· What is important to you?
· What are your goals?
Engaging with others
You will have the most productive and positive interactions with others if you are happy in your work, are making active choices about what you do and have energy to focus on the things that are most important in your life. Women are generally strong communicators although may find it difficult to manage difficult conversations. If you find yourself in conflict or having a negative interaction with someone, then consider:
· What within you is causing the upset?
· What will happen if you pause and consider your reaction to the other person?
· How can you get the most out of this situation?
When you establish a climate of trust, your team commits to goals, communications improve, and ideas flow more freely. Perhaps most importantly, your employees are more comfortable with change and are more willing to embrace a new vision. The key elements for doing this are demonstrating that you can be relied upon and will deliver for others, that your behaviours are congruent with what you say (actions speak louder than words), you are non-judgemental, accepting of others and are open and transparent. If you are finding it difficult to trust someone then it’s likely that they are missing one or more of these elements.
Building your team with purpose
Use your strength in establishing and building relationships with others, to communicate your vision, explain your values and share your purpose. Involving others early in finding solutions to problems within your business means that they are more likely to own the issue and pull in the same direction.
Take risks and have courage
Disrupting the status quo requires working out of your comfort zone and taking risks. Speaking out when you have something to say requires you to overcome the limitations you are imposing on yourself. Having a mentor or coach can help give you the push you need. You can self-coach by thinking of a time when you have been brave and stepped in:
· What did you achieve?
· What did it feel like when you delivered more than you expected to?
· How can you take this confidence into new situations?
Renew and invest in yourself
Finding time to renew in a busy working and home life is critical to sustaining high energy, resilience and good health. High performance requires you to be operating at the top of your game – physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually. This requires planning and action:
· What ten-minute renewal activity can you regularly bring into every working day?
· How can you manage your energy positively throughout the day and week?
· What will you do to properly recover every 3-4 weeks?
Ideally, leadership would be without gender, with both feminine and masculine traits contributing to success, where individuals have the self-awareness and support to be the very best they can be. This has to be good for the profession, sector and independent pharmacy.
Deborah Evans is managing director of Pharmacy Complete and founder of the Facebook group 'Women in Pharmacy.'