Women are not promoted to leadership roles as often as men. However, they usually thrive when they are, because many of the skills that seem to either be “societally expected” or natural to “women’s roles” help them thrive as leaders in a business environment. Luckily, this is now being noticed. One of the top 2016 business trends noted by Pepperdine University is the increase of women in high-level decision-making positions in Fortune 500 companies.
That is not to say that the glass ceiling is gone, but it is cracking. The percentage of women in the workforce is increasing, and more of them are concerned about their career success. In addition to the increased number of women in the career world, women’s wages have also increased.
Surprisingly, though, the pay gap is worse for women in leadership roles. Across all job titles, women earn 92 percent of what men do. When you look at upper-management roles, it decreases to 83 percent.
Despite the pay gap, women succeed as leaders in corporations and as owners of their small businesses. Whether you are male or female, there are several skills that you could learn from women leaders to develop your leadership style and thus help secure your success.
1. Emotional Intelligence
Emotional intelligence is the ability to understand and manage your own emotions and the emotions of others. There are five main elements of emotional intelligence: self-awareness, self-regulation, motivation, empathy, and social skills. We could discuss each of these at length, but that has been done in many places.
The main point is that without understanding your own emotions and being able to control them, you will always be at the mercy of them. This can lead to poor decisions made under stress, poor relations with your employees, and potentially with your clients.
Women will often have the edge in self-awareness, motivation, empathy, and social skills; while men will have the edge is in self-regulation. They tend to control their own emotions or compartmentalize a little better than women. Either way, EQ is an effective tool for leaders that can be developed.
Oprah Winfrey has discussed her abuse as a child and issues with discrimination when first starting her media. However, she developed her EQ as she progressed and is now a perfect example of someone who uses and controls her emotions to her advantage.
2. Good Communication
All leaders must be effective communicators. Without the ability to impart your ideas and visions, you will not be able to get the buy-in necessary for employee engagement or the understanding to complete goals. This is especially true when a new idea or direction is being introduced.
It is a stereotype that women talk too much, but it does indicate a societal expectation. Women are expected to be good communicators. They need to be to foster successful family relationships. They also tend to listen more, which means they can more accurately direct their communications to questions and concerns of their employees.
Great communicators are warm, vulnerable, and relatable, while still effectively conveying their message with conviction. One of the best examples today of a great communicator is Michelle Obama. She has used many platforms (daytime and evening talk shows, prime time interviews, and national conventions) to put forth her messages about nutrition, women’s rights, and finding a balance between professions and motherhood. In all her communications, you can relate to something she says.
3. Team Builders
Another major part of being a leader is establishing a team mentality with your employees. Even if your company is three people, if everyone isn’t working together to achieve organizational goals, you won’t get there. This ties in closely with communication. You must convey the goals and then convince everyone to work towards those goals.
Overall, women are usually taught to be more cooperative in their work and are more willing to work towards a consensus. Instead of saying, “you will do it this way,” they are willing to take input and work out a plan that will take into account different work styles. This is extremely important with the increasingly Millennial workforce who will easily leave jobs that don’t fulfill them.
Women will build relationships, which build teams, which encourages workers to stay. Feeling a part of a team, buying into the goals of the company, will keep businesses successful and employees engaged.
Irene Rosenfeld, CEO of the global good company Mondelez, is well aware of what it takes to build a team in today’s business world. Probably her most famous quote is about this subject: “Our emerging workforce is not interested in command-and-control leadership. They don’t want to do things because I said so; they want to do things because they want to do them.”
4. Creative Thinking
Great leaders are creative. Not necessarily in the artistic sense but in the ability to think outside the box. They use creative thinking to solve problems, engage employees, or improve how the business functions. Shark Tank alum Barbara Ann Corcoran built her business around the idea of a team with strong creative ideas.
Women are not more creative than men, but often they will be more willing to explore creative ideas. Often creative ideas will come from brainstorming with a team and letting all ideas be expressed without censorship. By using their skills at collaboration, women encourage creative ideas, then build consensus on which are the best solutions to solve problems.
Every leader must be capable of self-reflection. To effectively lead, you must be aware of your strengths and weaknesses. With this knowledge, you can either compensate through developing team members to complement or improve your skills where necessary. This also helps leaders to be able to correctly evaluate team members’ strengths and use those strengths accordingly.
Women quite often have to be better than their male counterparts just to be promoted. They are very used to having to develop new skills and constantly evaluate themselves. They are more likely to be continually learning and growing, with Millennial women being the first generation to be better educated than their male counterparts.
These skills are found in either gender but are often already developed in women before they are promoted into a leadership role. Whether you are male or female, evaluate yourself. You might have some or all of these skills already or you might need to work on some or all of them. Either way, they will give you an edge in your career.