ChangeIn today’s VUCCA (volatile, uncertain, complex, and ambiguous) world, the only constant is Change.

There is no industry, field, profession or organisation that I know that isn’t driving some kind of change. Looking for the competitive advantage, firms are always looking to find the new product, programme or process that will drive success. Re-organisations. New Strategic Directions. Updated Values. New Corporate Cultures. Implementation of Enterprise-wide software.

Just like organisations, female leaders must be on the lookout for a competitive advantage. We must be asking ourselves; ‘What can I offer my firm that is different from other leaders? The answer to this question is change leadership. Great change leaders are invaluable for firms given the above. And the good news is that many female leaders have what it takes to drive change.

Research shows that effective change leaders exhibit four critical skills.

  • Storytelling skills that capture hearts & minds.
  • Ability to ‘tell it like it is’.
  • Anxiety management skills that keep employees from going into ‘fight or flight’ mode.
  • Ability to coach ‘in the moment’ to help change paradigms & perceptions.

Even if you are not ‘officially’ a Leader in your firm; change provides a wonderful opportunity to step into the spotlight. Here are ways that you could leverage some of the ‘feminine’ traits and abilities I’ve seen in female leaders in order to drive change and be viewed by your organisation as ‘leadership material’.

In 2007, global consulting firm McKinsey & Company published Women Matter: Gender diversity, a corporate performance driver, the first of a series of articles examining the role of women in business. The report drew a direct correlation between a company’s performance and the number of women in its executive team: the more women, the better performance. McKinsey concluded;

Women bring a unique set of skills and a rich and different set of ideas.

How can we bring these unique skills & ideas into our firms to help drive Change?


“Empathetic leadership is about understanding where each employee is coming from and being able to put that understanding into action in the way that motivates that person.” Isn’t this what good storytelling is about? Understanding the ‘hooks’ and motivators so that the readers or listeners pay attention to the story. Women have a long history of storytelling in many cultures. Women are by nature great storytellers, and have been responsible for passing down, from generation to generation, the stories that help preserve the culture.

Telling It like It Is

Women have “the motherhood gene.” The “motherhood gene” causes women to rise up and defend those in weak positions. In the corporate world, the defenseless might be mistreated employees, bamboozled shareholders or cheated customers. They have a strong desire to ‘Do the Right Thing’. They tell it like it is during times of change; believing that not doing so is equivalent to mistreating staff. They are keen to treat their staff like adults, not children even if that means ‘truth telling’. My experience is that women tend to be vigilant watchdogs who call out bad corporate behavior. And this skill is helpful in driving change.

Anxiety Management

In the 1930s, physiologist Walter Cannon proposed that stress triggers two primordial reactions—fight or flight. But fight or flight is only part of a bigger picture, according to Shelley Taylor, Ph.D., a psychology professor at the University of California, Los Angeles, and her colleagues.Her research describe how stress can elicit another behavioural pattern called “tend and befriend”–especially in females. They found a tendency for females to affiliate with other familiar people increases during times of stress. Both oxytocin and endorphins contribute to the females’ tendency to “befriend.” This means that women do a great job – during times of change – to help reduce the stress their teams may be feeling.

Women bring a unique set of skills and a rich and different set of ideas.

Coaching in the Moment

For most women, the language of conversation is primarily a language of rapport: a way of establishing connections and negotiating relationships … For most men, talk is primarily a means to preserve independence and negotiate and maintain status in a hierarchical social order.”says Deborah Tannen, Author of You Just Don’t Understand; Men and Women in Conversation. Women are by nature good coaches; asking questions instead of telling. They are good at transforming headspace, challenging assumptions and paradigms and helping others see different perspectives. Because of this, they create movement forward during times of change.

I realise that this blog includes some widely accepted generalizations and stereotypes and for that I apologise. I know that every person is an individual. So whether you’re a man or a women, if you possess the feminine qualities described above, my advice to you is use them to drive change in your firm. This will be your competitive advantage!MB-Headshot-BW

Be the Change you Want to See.   – Mahatma Gandhi

Author Bio

Michelle Brailsford is an executive coach and change management consultant who helps high-achieving executives make bold changes to how they lead their organization. Her ethos of ‘Adding life back into work’ will result in more productivity and less resistance, more clarity and less confusion, more positivity and less cynicism. You can contact Michelle at [email protected]

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