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Saturday, June 15, 2024

Reframing the narrative:
Celebrating the unique leadership styles of women

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By ANUSHREE M BAG

Despite recent advances, it continues to be lonely for women in leadership roles, especially for those at the very top. That can often make women wonder- what is setting us back? Do we need to make material changes to our leadership styles? To make it to the top, do we need to emulate behaviors that are masculine?

The answer is an emphatic, NO! Women think, act, and lead with a unique set of strengths and capabilities. We need to keep leading with confidence in our unique leadership strengths. In this article, we will explore the feminine leadership styles of 7 women trailblazers.

Empathy is a core competency of women leaders. Melinda Gates, co-chair of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, is committed to improving the lives of people around the world, particularly women and girls, and is deeply empathetic to their needs and challenges. Gates’ empathy has helped her connect with people from all walks of life and has made her a respected and admired leader, globally.

Authenticity is a crucial leadership trait that women possess. Authentic leaders are transparent, genuine, and true to themselves. They inspire trust and create a positive work environment. Talk show host Ellen DeGeneres is open about her struggles with mental health, and her experiences as a member of the LGBTQ+ community. DeGeneres’ authenticity has helped her connect with her audience and has made her a role model for many.

Resilience is the ability to bounce back from setbacks and challenges. Notable women leaders have had to overcome many obstacles to get to where they are, and this has made them resilient leaders. Instead of locking up in fear when things go wrong, they treat the failures as the best learning moments, and inspire their team members to persevere and overcome challenges. Sara Blakely, CEO of Spanx, who was named by Forbes as the world’s youngest self-made billionaire, routinely talks about her many failures before she became successful.

Inclusivity is another leadership trait that women bring to the table. Inclusive leaders value diversity and ensure that all team members feel included and heard. They promote a sense of belonging and respect in the workplace. Ursula Burns, former CEO of Xerox, the first Black woman to head a Fortune 500 company, was a champion of women and people of color in the corporate world, and her commitment to inclusion helped her build a diverse and inclusive team and made her a respected and admired leader.

Being decisive is a crucial leadership trait that women possess. Decisive leaders make informed decisions quickly and efficiently. They are not afraid to take charge and take risks. Angela Ahrendts, the former CEO of Burberry, and former Senior Vice President of Apple, was an extremely decisive leader. She led Burberry’s turnaround and transformed Apple’s retail strategy.

Adaptability is the ability to adjust to changing circumstances. Women are adaptable leaders who can navigate through changing environments and remain calm under pressure. Indra Nooyi, the former CEO of PepsiCo, is an example of an adaptable leader. She led PepsiCo’s shift towards healthier products and successfully navigated through the financial crisis.

Women often use innovative techniques to find new ways to organize their homes, decorate, and plan meals, juggle multiple responsibilities, and create work life balance. We also apply the same innovativeness to the workplace to solve problems. Mary Barra, the CEO of General Motors, has been a strong advocate for General Motors to invest in new technologies, such as electric and autonomous vehicles. She has pushed the company to prioritize these areas and drive a culture of innovation.

Clearly, many natural “female” traits make women very compelling leaders. Most women are still largely responsible for the nurturing of their families; it is a part of our genetic structure. That means we take responsibility for nurturing people to feel included and valued, a trait that we often naturally extend in our workplaces. Before we convince others, we need to convince ourselves that we are just as good as our male counterparts. We also need to build and support our tribe. Finally, we need to be vocal and visible about telling our stories, as we stay on course to break new ground and smash glass ceilings. 

— Anushree M Bag

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