Many centuries ago, women were seen as people who could not make decisions for themselves hence they could not lead or take initiative. Although lots of people believed it, a lot of women proved that train of thought wrong by how they were able to make a difference, lead a revolution, make discoveries, or spark societal change. Today, many people have fast embraced the concept of female leadership. Although it is still not as widely seen as we would want it to be, we have really come a long way. Things are a lot better than they were many decades ago. As a woman navigating the workplace and learning to lead in whatever capacity I can, I have had a lot of encouragement from people around me.
Here are a few tips that have helped me in my journey:
1. Think equality: I have found out that navigating the workplace with the mindset that you are equal to your male colleagues makes leadership a lot easier. Thinking equality gives you a feeling that you belong here and so you give it your best shot. You’re not worried about other people thinking you’re incompetent. You are not trying to prove a point to anyone. You are just working in the space where you belong and bringing your A-game!
2. Be confident: Confidence shows in the way you carry yourself. It shows in your strides, your firm grip when you shake hands, your smile, your calm voice when you make your presentations. When you are confident, even the naysayers would give it up for you. This is because you are bringing your best to the table and you are doing it in style too! Never walk with your head bent low. Never shuffle your feet or twitch your fingers. Walk into the room with your head held high because you deserve that seat at the table!
3. Lead by example: One great way to inspire loyalty and respect from your team is when you lead by example. Always have your work ready on time. Be early for meetings. Take care to organize your workspace. Dress smartly, smile and be courteous to everyone.
4. Be polite but firm: As a leader, who is a woman, some people might expect you to be easy to bend over. Don’t meet that expectation. Part of being a leader is standing on some important decisions no matter what. Of course, this doesn’t mean rigidity. You could be flexible when there is a need to be. But when something needs to be done a certain way, insist on it firmly but politely. It actually inspires respect and shows people that you know what you’re doing and you deserve that position you occupy.
5. Appreciate your team: From time to time, tell the people you work with that they are doing a great job! You should also tell them that you love working with them. Call them on their birthdays and get them gifts. It doesn’t have to be expensive, just thoughtful. You can also ask the whole team to put something together. It makes people feel appreciated and important. When people are appreciated, they are usually more productive.
6. Listen to your team: Although you are the leader, you should give room for your team to air their views about certain things too. This really helps because you can’t have all the good ideas. People like to be heard. It inspires loyalty and team spirit. I have seen that people tend to cooperate a lot more when they know that they are part of the process.
The list of things that can help you become a better leader is actually inexhaustible but these are the basic ones that have made leadership become natural for me. Although I haven’t had the opportunity to lead in a very large capacity, the little things I have been able to put together are as a result of staying true to who I am, being confident, and putting these things I listed to practice.