Embracing your leadership potential as a woman

It is no secret that leadership positions are typically held by men, with 89% of executive jobs in Europe held by males. It is disturbing that in the 21st century that we as women all over the world still face discrimination and inequality.
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I was privileged to speak at two events recently that both focused on women’s empowerment. Both of these were non-profit organisations; Women Worldwide Active and Women’s Economic Forum (WEF). There was a gentleman who spoke at WEF and he said something that really hit home for me as a woman in business. When we have to fight for our positions and the competition is tough we have a tendency to hide our innate nurturing skills. We have been so busy taking on the alpha male roles that our predecessors felt they had no choice but to, in order to be seen and noticed.

With all the disruptive political events taking place in the world, driven by the ‘masculine ego’ (which is by no means limited to men) there is a real need for people to connect with one another in both personal and professional lives. We can do this honing into that deeply feminine skill of nurturing and social connection. As women it is something we are innately connected to and for men it is something they too posses and need to hone in on.

Studies have shown that successful teams that outperform the competition shared some key traits:

  • The more successful groups had more women in them
  • Each person has equal input
  • Show a high degree of empathy to one another
  • Are helpful to one another
  • High social cohesion

Here are some tips on how to bring more of your innate feminine skills to your leadership roles in order to nurture and encourage socially cohesive and connected teams, to fully embody our leadership potential.

One: Get comfortable with vulnerability.

Real strength is being able to admit when you are wrong and be willing to ask for or accept assistance when you need help. It is tricky when we are taught from such a young age that in order to be a leader we have to be strong. Here’s the thing, being a leader is a fairly thankless role and can often feel like walking around with a bull’s eye stuck to your back, which can manifest in feelings of isolation and loneliness, and so therein begins the development of unhealthy behavior patterns to deal with the demand of the role.

When you feel isolated the last thing you instinctively want to do is show any weakness. In the act of being strong you end up coming across as cold and detached, to try to hide any weakness. There is no shame in admitting that someone else is more knowledgeable than you, yet you would rather shout than admit you are wrong. Ignoring advice and assistance because they are admissions of your shortcomings, is a recipe for disaster.

Two: Connect with empathy and communicate with compassion

For us to be able to exercise our empathy muscles and really learn how to step into someone else’s shoes we must be willing to feel the emotions that cause us to feel vulnerable. It is only when we begin to allow our self the permission to feel our own sense of vulnerability and be compassionate to our self can we show empathy and compassion to another.

Communicating with compassion is essential, especially when there is a difficult message to deliver. Compassionate communication can change what is potentially a destructive conversation to one that is generative. Giving the space for the creation of new possibilities that may not have existed before.

Three: Create a supportive tribe around you

When the going gets tough you need social support and need to know who to go to for help. No one achieved as much on their own as they have done as a collective. Nurture your tribe both in your business and personal life. The best business leaders surround themselves with a senior management team of people they trust who have complementary skills, they are connected and collaborative.

It is these tribes that will help co-navigate unchartered waters, in times of disruption so that you can continue on course with your vision and mission. They are the ones who will help you shape your strategy for success.

Four: Invest in your self-development

The leaders who thrive are the ones that understand how their behaviour impacts others around them. In order to better understand yourself get the right support for you, be that in the form of a coach, a therapist, or a shaman for that matter. As long as what you are doing works for you and helps you gain a better understanding of yourself and how to overcome any blocks you may have unconsciously self imposed. Investing in our self awareness also helps us be more aware of others. It is worth the investment, to get in-touch with and process those pesky things called feelings.

I am hopeful that with every passing year, gender gaps get smaller and more women embrace their feminine power and with this hold more senior positions.

About the Author:

Kavitha Chahel is the founder and MD of Compassionism Ltd, a leadership coaching and training company focusing on helping business leaders create profitable businesses through highly engaged teams and by getting comfortable with their fear and vulnerability to connect with their compassion.

She is an experienced business coach and company director. For nearly 20 years she has worked in business development, marketing, business leadership and strategy across the corporate, public and charitable sectors. She is also a non-executive director of Asha Projects, a charity that provides safe housing to women and children fleeing domestic violence. She has worked with clients across EMEA, the Americas and APAC.

Recently Kavitha published her new book ‘Compassionism’ which you can find here.

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