Natural Leadership Traits Women Possess That Are Commonly Undervalued
By Vanessa Richardson
It can be very difficult to value, respect and appreciate great leadership if we cannot clearly recognize exactly what makes a great leader. Because of this, there is an identity crisis that exists in today’s workplace and it is one that women, particularly those in leadership roles have been grappling with for far too long. Slowly but surely the climate is changing. More women than ever are being elevated into roles where their innate leadership qualities can be put to good use, however there is still much recognition of these needed in the workplace. It has become more common for women to be elected as leaders of their nations – and as of 2018 there were 18. Many of the most powerful and high profile countries in the world including Israel, Chile, Germany, India, South Korea and the United Kingdom have elected or appointed women as their heads of state. In the business world however, women only hold 4.9% of Fortune 500 CEO positions. As women continue their upward arc in business, they really have yet to be fully appreciated for the unique qualities and abilities they bring to organizations.
Like many who grew up in a largely Hispanic culture, I was lucky enough to be surrounded by strong-willed, hardworking and purpose – driven women. We did not lack for observing leadership in women however, it usually was not perceived in that regard. My grandmother as well as many other women I grew up with possessed natural leadership skills without the educational experience of learning them and were masters of “opportunity management”. They seamlessly kept everything in check while running a household (mostly alone) and maintaining a full time job. What I learned from this is that a woman’s instincts and emotional intelligence can be off the charts. Crisis management, strategic planning, turnaround expertise, were all skills they were proficient in long before these had a name.
It may be challenging for some to understand just exactly how women in leadership think and strategize unless they themselves have been closely influenced by strong women. Women and girls process things very differently and on their own terms. As a veteran high school teacher, I found it was most often the female students who took over the planning of a group project, it may have taken much more time but there was a more tactical approach to their work. The subtleties of their personalities often lent themselves to a keen sense of other’s strengths and weaknesses.
The best women I know have a spherical vision that allows them to express their versatility. My best friend of twenty-plus years has her finger on the pulse of culture and can talk about the latest fashion trends, movies, and food but can switch gears in a second and give her cultivated perspective on what is taking place in politics. Women seeking chances to be seen as significant in their careers must always be on the hunt for opportunity. It becomes an instinctual and often full time second job; and this is where (unfortunately) they can be regarded as ultra-competitive. All the while their male colleagues may be seen as nothing more than having great ambition. No doubt there is a double standard that still comfortably exists.
I have observed the women I admire run the show both at home as well as in the workplace, which in turn has enabled me to recognize evolved behavior patterns. Women in leadership positions are multi-taskers and effectively collaborate. They are not afraid to protect and defend which in my experience makes them extraordinary leaders in education. Because women are often their own worst critics, they are very self-evaluative and constantly test their rhythm in life – trial and error are part of their routine. They view patience in leadership as a virtue.
The female leaders I know are knowledge seekers and invest in themselves. If given a safe platform to ask questions and express themselves, they almost always will. Although women can be significantly skeptical, if they trust they will heavily endorse. Successful female leaders don’t rely on favors; most truly believe they can influence their own advancement by serving others.
I know this for sure – women understand survival, recovery and reinvention. They have grit and are not afraid to fight for what they are passionate about, or moreover if they have the opportunity to do something significant. While it is true women have their organizational and productivity secrets, it is no secret as to how these skills are acquired. With the cultivation of their innate qualities of sheer grit, passion and resilience, women should seek to become empowered to embrace the leadership skills they already naturally possess.
Integrated People Solutions is an executive placement firm in Denver, Colorado, and is part of the Kennedy Executive Network
About Kennedy Executive
Kennedy Executive Search & Consulting is a global partner network of retained search boutiques in Europe and North America with offices in Amsterdam, Budapest, Copenhagen, Denver, Frankfurt, Milan, Monaco, Paris, Prague, and Salzburg. The network covers 360 degrees of talent management: executive search finds and assesses the right talent in the market, consulting develops people and organizations. With the addition of Evolve South Africa, Kennedy is now active on 4 continents and in 14 countries and offers a global reach. Between the 75+ consultants and researchers, 30 languages are spoken. As a network Kennedy will run 365 strategic recruitments all over the world this year. Kennedy Executive Search & Consulting helps organizations to achieve their goals and people to enhance their careers every day.