how should businesswomen develop leadership skills?

14/01/2019

Recent UK government figures have revealed that just under a quarter of all FTSE 100 boardroom positions are now occupied by women, a figure which has doubled in four years, and is a commendable step in the right direction. However, despite this growth, many women still find it difficult to envision themselves as leaders and are often far more cautious than men when taking steps toward senior positions.  

However, it has long been recognised that female leaders do things quite differently to men but often struggle to see those differences as attributes. By embracing, rather than denying these unique traits and using them to their advantage, women have every chance of being successful. 

Seek advice from a mentor or leader at your company

At times being a female leader involves treading a very fine line – if you’re too assertive you might be subject to a backlash for being too aggressive; if you’re too feminine you aren’t, in the traditional sense, seen as an authoritative and conventional leader. 

There is a delicate balance to be found between the two and it helps to seek guidance from senior women in your own company who have been there and done it.

If possible, find yourself a mentor and ask for their feedback and advice. If there is a lack of female role models within your company think about joining a professional organisation or networking group where you can meet other women and try out new leadership styles outside the office. 

Understand feminine leadership traits

Women do lead differently to men and it is important for businesswomen to understand how to identify and utilise these unique attributes. Highly successful women respond more to the ideas of collaboration, inclusion, consultation and empathy. They are expert multi-taskers and adept at managing crises; relying on emotional intelligence and instinct as much as they do business acumen.

Women tend to be better at collaborating than men and more willing to bring in others with greater expertise to achieve a positive outcome. They are also better at empathising than men, sensing others’ thoughts and feelings and responding appropriately.

Hone your skills

Practice makes perfect and nothing will make you a better leader faster than applying your skills within real life scenarios. Whether this is through public speaking, managing a small team or working on your negotiating skills, throwing yourself into situations which may seem daunting and above your current position will give you the confidence to pursue other leadership ventures. 

It’s also important to consider a more academic approach to personal development too and although they may not be within budget, studying for a MBA or MS in leadership and management is a great way to develop your leader identity. Not only will this increase your credibility but it will continue to build your confidence and round your expertise. However, if you can’t enrol for a postgraduate degree or masters there are plenty of shorter courses where you will learn specific skills and meet like-minded individuals.