Leadership in the Workplace: A Woman’s Guide
Strong female leaders know the importance of continuous leadership development. Leadership and management styles evolve with the ever-changing workforce. COVID-19 has changed many workplaces; the way we interact with our teams, the way we hold meetings, and even the way we check-in with our employees is likely different than it was just last year! Your leadership goals may need to pivot to accommodate these changes. Although leadership in the workplace may look different during pandemic times, there are fundamentals when it comes to being an effective team leader.
Despite small increases, women remain significantly underrepresented in senior positions. McKinsey & Company reported an increase from 23 to 28 percent for women in senior roles when comparing 2015 to 2020. An even smaller increase was seen in the C-suite, with an increase from 17 to 21 percent when comparing 2015 and 2020. Although organizations are realizing women’s leadership competencies, there are concerns that the strain caused by COVID-19 could erase the improvements made over the past five years. That’s why savvy business leaders and organizations are placing a focus on promoting more women.
Encourage and Inspire
According to McKinsey & Company, many women believe their organization is structured with primarily senior males and a few females. These companies have a traditional, masculine leadership style in the workplace, which tends to favor authoritative decision making and control; they tend to be more transactional. Many women in leadership roles don’t work in this way. Women leaders tend to value:
- Clear, effective communication
This type of leadership style is more interactive and referred to as transformational leadership. There are many effective leadership styles, but transformational leadership correlates with several leadership skills associated with long term success. As a result, more companies are promoting individuals with these attributes to higher positions.
As a leader, it is important to have a clear vision and communicate this vision to your team members. Position your vision as a team mission and highlight your company’s values. In order to inspire your team, they must trust you and your vision. Trusting your team and their abilities will encourage creativity, initiative, and efficiency. A micromanaging approach can negatively affect your team. Self-aware leaders know their strengths and weaknesses, as well as those of their team. Assign projects accordingly, and rather than overseeing smaller tasks, trust your team to take control and continue to encourage them by reviewing the common goal.
Solid workplace leadership must be based on trust. Good leaders focus on building trust with their employees. By keeping your word, communicating clearly, showing loyalty, and demonstrating trustworthiness, employees will deliver better results and work harder.
Use high-power body language
Women use low power poses more often than men. Low power poses are when we make ourselves smaller (e.g.. slouching, crossing your legs, crossing your arms, etc.). Amy Cuddy noticed this in her MBA classroom. She had equally qualified women and men coming to class. The men in attendance took up more space in the room and participated more by raising their hands. The women in attendance did the opposite.
Research has shown that high-power alpha males in primates and powerful leaders both have high levels of testosterone and low cortisol. To see how this could be manipulated with our body language, Cuddy conducted a study. Participants would hold a high power pose or low power pose for two minutes. High power poses included “the wonder woman” with hands on your hips, feet spread shoulder-width apart, chin high, standing tall. A lower power pose is sitting, slouched over, touching your neck. The participants were shown a picture of a pose and told to hold it for two minutes. They were then asked how they felt and provided a saliva sample. There were some interesting results; two minutes of posing caused hormonal changes and configured your brain to be more confident. The way we feel and the way we are perceived is affected by our body language.
Conscious leadership means being aware of your own body language. The next time you are in a meeting or at a job interview—use high power posing. Even spending two minutes in a private office or washroom in a high power pose will make you feel and act more powerful. Body language can also create a more welcoming work environment and make employees feel comfortable bringing up issues they may have.
Good leaders make decisions, but great leaders make them through collaboration. There are some decisions that will need to be made on the fly, and as an effective leader, you should be able to do so confidently. When you need to make a quick decision, consider previous experiences, projected outlook, and resources. When faced with a decision that affects the entire team, you should collaborate with others. Involving your team in the decision-making process improves their sense of self-efficacy, confidence, and overall commitment to the project.
Leadership competency can be measured informally or formally. Ask your employees to complete a survey or digital assessments regarding your leadership style. Anonymity will produce the most honest answers. Want to take a more direct approach to improving your leadership style? Ask! Open communication with your team and asking your employees how you can be a better leader is probably one of the most effective methods to enhancing your leadership skills. Each employee is different. Some like constant feedback and others do not, so tailor your approach accordingly.
When you focus on the individual—meeting each employee where they are—the greater their satisfaction and performance will be. Successful and strong leaders are open to feedback and can admit mistakes. Enhancing your leadership in the workplace is an on-going process, and the time and effort you put in will always be worth it.