10 Leadership Lessons for Aspiring Women Leaders

Muthumari S • November 07, 2018
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Brillio Winspire, a Women Leadership program that I recently graduated from, raised many questions on why a leadership program has to be gender specific. What areas of support would women employees need—that are specific to them being women—to transform into leaders? What challenges do young women face that Winspire can help overcome, that their male peers may not be facing? While I still don’t have a concrete answer, the below statistic certainly provides food for thought.

“While the world is evolving, women are still lagging when it comes to leadership roles in business. Today, only 26 women are in CEO roles at Fortune 500 companies, making up 5.2% of the female population, according to a report by Pew Research. The stats stay virtually the same for women CEOs of Fortune 1000 companies at 5.4%, showing that there is little movement of women making up these high-ranking positions as company leaders.” – Forbes

After my successful graduation from the program, I feel it is only right to pen down my journey and learnings to sincerely thank the program for what it has been for me.

As a woman employee aspiring to grow into leadership roles, I was willing to double down and work as hard as it takes to progress. However, the critical blocker was ambiguity around what growth areas to focus on and relentlessly prioritize to keep growing as an individual and a leader. What I needed was a solid structure that would enable me to channelize my energy and effort into the right areas that would allow me to grow. I needed a program that would give me attention at an individual level, understand the unique challenges that I face as an individual and help me deal with them. Winspire was just that.

With Winspire, I got the perfect platform that made a tangible difference to me across multiple facets. Being able to connect and interact with aspiring women leaders enabled me to expand my horizons, and get inspired from their stories and struggles to reach wherever they are today; trainers who help me to genuinely introspect into my superpowers and growth areas, allowing me to focus on particular aspects with unbiased and comprehensive feedback. Winspire is a program designed to address common issues faced by women through coaching, assignments, and talks by leaders who have already made it through the journey.

Through the Winspire journey, I realized 10 critical leadership lessons:

1. Executive Presence: It’s not power dressing and but is all about the three Cs – Competence, Confidence & Credibility. In the long run, it is crucial for women to continually work on their competence that will in-turn result in confidence and credibility leading to executive presence.

2. Emotional Intelligence: Being aware of emotions, both our own and of others and leveraging those emotions for the right use.

3. Proptimize: Prioritize and Optimize. When things don’t work, take things slow, don’t quit. It is compelling, especially for a woman. Most of the days I get to face such challenges, and I end up with a lot of guilt ‘trying to be’ a perfect manager, mentor, and mom while also trying to keep a clean home and maintain sanity/peace within self.

4. Role Clarity: Mentor, Coach, and Manager cannot be the same person. A manager may be invested in your personal growth but should equally invest in your deliverables. A coach is a subject matter expert that will enable you to work on and improve specific aspects while a mentor will take a broader and more long-term view and identify areas where coaching is required. To grow to be a good mentor, coach, or manager, you need to be mindful and empathetic. Mindful, by being constantly aware of your thoughts, feelings, bodily sensations, and the surrounding environment; while, being empathetic is the ability to understand the emotional makeup of others and treating them per their state of mind.

5. Outgrow the mentoring need. Don’t outgrow the mentoring.

6. Art of delegation: Even a superwoman needs to learn the art of delegation. 6Ds of delegation – Doing, Dumping, Dropping, Distributing, Delegating, Deputizing. The 6 Ds are applied based on whether the job is judgment based or rule-based. Do not delegate – confidentiality and uniqueness.

7. You realize that you are a leader already when – ‘being in the limelight without the need for appreciation’ is your everyday routine.

8. Negotiation: It’s about ‘giving up or giving in’. A great negotiator will know when to ‘interact + network’ and when to ‘contact + transact’. Be crystal clear about ‘preference vs. non-negotiables’ and back up with data. Some important terms I learnt:

  • ZOPA – Zone of Possible Alternatives,
  • BATNA – Best Alternative to Negotiated Agreement,
  • WATNA – Worst Alternative to Negotiated Agreement.

9. Showing vulnerability is not weakness, rather a leadership trait to earn trust amongst those you lead.

10. Go beyond self-doubt: Irrespective of gender, every young leader faces bad days and can get trapped down the rabbit hole of self-doubt and uncertainty. With women, this occurs more often. And I realized it in many workshops we had.

Thanks to Jacintha Jayachandran (Founder – LeadNow) for being an excellent coach, Sindhu Subhashini, Shanty Kokoth and Nolita D’Souza– the women behind this program and Manu Lavanya and Sridhar Krishnamurthy – the men who sponsored this program.

All the best to all the aspiring women leaders out there! Grab your opportunity with confidence and competence, and without self-doubt and guilt!

Let’s create something amazing together!

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