Leadership is one’s ability to influence others to achieve common goals. To accomplish this, a leader needs to possess skills that can effectively communicate goals, motivate others, help others improve, give support when needed and ensure the well-being of their teams.
While gender should ideally not determine an individual’s leadership abilities, potential should be determined by evaluating individual strengths and personality traits. However, often, women aren’t encouraged to assume leadership roles as much as their male counterparts, which contributes to the lopsided power dynamics of the corporate landscape.
2022 is definitely seeing a new record number of female CEOS at Fortune 500 companies. As of March 2022, there were 74 female CEOs employed at America’s 500 highest-grossing companies, up from 41 in June of 2021 and only 7 in 2002. Yet, the new high still only translates to around 15 percent female representation at the top of the country’s businesses.
Closer home in India, as I write this article Ms. Droupadi Murmu is elected as the 15th President of India and the second woman President of the country, which is a proud moment for all of us.
Women had more to deal with, even as companies shifted to remote and hybrid working models in the backdrop of the global pandemic, COVID-19. The McKinsey & Company report further reveals that women have been more burnt out than a year ago. Meanwhile, the gap in the burnout between women and their male counterparts has almost doubled. This prolonged stress has forced one out of three women to consider leaving the workforce or downshifting their career, which is a significant increase from one out of four in the first few months of the pandemic. Despite these headwinds, they have stepped up and are out-performing men in similar positions by helping their teams manage work-life challenges better and ensuring their well-being.
These insights affirm their abilities and the untapped potential that companies must unravel. Women may not always realize how poised for success they are in leadership roles, but their potential and skills are undeniable.
Some of the reasons why women make great leaders are:
1. Women can handle crisis situations better
When there is a crisis in a Company, invariably a woman leader is put in charge to salvage the situation. When women are finally given a chance to prove themselves in leadership positions, they are handed something that is already broken and where the chances of failure are high.
During the Covid-19 crisis, we’ve heard anecdotally about women leaders doing a better job and new research backs that up. One study found that outcomes related to Covid-19, including number of cases and deaths, were systematically better in countries led by women.
2. Women are resilient
Girls growing up are trained to be co-operative, collaborative and more relationship focused (nurturing and care taking) while boys are trained to be more competitive. Being a mother, teaches one to deal with numerous complicated situations at home with compassion and patience. Women are known to handle stress better and bounce back quicker than men in the face of any adversity. These attributes play a relevant role when it comes to dealing with unpredictable market conditions and client related challenges.
3. Women are empathetic
Women bring empathy to the work place. It allows them to share their knowledge and connect with their colleagues better, enabling effective collaboration. They are able to understand what drives and motivates people, and how to acknowledge the diverse talent pool present within the team. It also makes it easier for team members to approach a female leader with a sensitive or a personal request.
4. Women value work life balance
Despite all the talk on gender equality, women often wear many hats at a time. They juggle between managing the household, children, ageing parents, and their careers. Work- pressures notwithstanding, they work hard to make quality time for family, as well. This drives them to find a better work-life balance. Women as leaders are better attuned to their team‘s well-being, which includes their performance at work, as well as their personal lives.
They act as champions of a more fulfilling workplace and life. As Jessica Arden, Prime Minister of New Zealand says, “One of the criticisms that I’ve faced over the years is that I’m not aggressive enough or assertive enough or maybe somehow, because I’m empathetic, it means I’m weak. I totally rebel against that. I refuse to believe that you cannot be both compassionate and strong.”
5. They are strong communicators
Communication is said to be among a woman’s strongest skill and they use it to their advantage. Many studies suggest that women are generally better at getting longer lasting results because they have an open and more communication-friendly or naturally interactive style and this encourages participation as opposed to men’s command and control approach. In other words, whether communicating with employers, co-workers, clients or partners, women seem to have more of an open communication stream that allows for clarity in executing roles and responsibilities, as well as power and information sharing at all levels.
6. They try to defy challenges
Women never have it easy. The odds are always against them to lead and it takes an extra push for them to get to the top. Women who have acquired a position of leadership, after overcoming obstacles will inevitably emerge stronger and more capable than they would otherwise. Such an accomplished and self-willed individual perfectly encapsulates what makes for a good leader.
7. They are great team players.
Women as leaders take their teams along. Women are more nurturing, and help the team members grow personally and professionally. They strive to enable effective collaboration among the team members, finding immense strength and purpose in collaborative effort. They have an inherent desire for the organisation as a whole to succeed, a trait that boosts teamwork across the organisation, and helps implement a new culture within the business.
8. They are great listeners
Women in leadership positions are known to better listeners. They are more likely to give people a chance and appreciate diverse viewpoints. They take informed decisions after hearing all points of view, and then learn, reflect, and implement a plan that incorporates the best of ideas.
9. They bring in fresh new outlook and perspectives
We have outlined the need to construct a diverse workforce, and with this will come new experiences and perspectives that ultimately contribute to bringing some much-needed innovation into the business. Women leaders are able to bring skills, different perspectives, and innovative ideas to the table, but these three combined will help create new perspectives that lead to better decision-making as a whole for the business.
10. They Make Their Jobs Look Effortless
Women are experts at making the impossible seem possible. In addition, sometimes on a good day they even make it look effortless. Women are pragmatic, resilient and usually able to manoeuvre tricky situations with grace. They look at the world with bravery and are able to piece together the world around them like a complex puzzle.
The need for more female leaders has never been more critical as it is now, and there is a never-ending catalogue of data to support this claim. The companies that boast a higher representation of women on their boards notably outperform the organisation that do not. Furthermore, studies have also outlined that companies with greater gender diversity, not just within their workforce but also directly among senior leaders, are significantly more profitable than those without.
Former U.S. president Barack Obama, while speaking at a private event on leadership had said, “I’m absolutely confident that for two years if every nation on earth was run by women, you would see a significant improvement across the board on just about everything… living standards and outcomes.”
In conclusion, women leaders are a need of the 21st century. For women to be more productive and reveal their underlying potential, it is important for organizations to empower them with leadership roles, thus encouraging workplace diversity.