It has been popularly suggested that the difference between men’s and women’s brains is gender specific, but new studies indicate that the way we socialize our children may have a lot more to do with our differences than previously thought. I truly hope in the next ten years we eliminate the stereotypical ‘male traits’ or ‘female traits’ that don’t help our society advance in an equal or balanced way.
However, as a former teacher I’ve had first hand experience with the socialized gender norms and the subtle differences between my students’ work depending on if they were a girl or a boy. I consistently saw girls turn in better quality work, be more thoughtful about their output, and act more attentive in class. Whether these are learned traits coming from societal norms or not – it doesn’t change the fact that these are positive characteristics that can be embraced and cultivated in our girls and young women to create successful leadership. Here are a few characteristics that women can cultivate into successful leadership traits:
The Art of Listening
Studies have shown that women are really good listeners. Being able to actively listen translates into good business management skills.. Whether you are leading a company or an organization, listening to your colleagues and employees fosters a team environment. Team players have an increased level of engagement and create better work results. Exceptional listening skills can also help reduce miscommunication – especially during team meetings.
Never underestimate the power of empathy. Empathy allows for you to understand and proactively address the needs of the people around you. Studies show that empathetic leadership leads to better team performance. We need to cultivate empathetic prowess. This looks like empathy mixed with the ability to act on what we believe is right and stand up for ourselves in the face of potential conflict. This skill applied to office situations will skyrocket our ability to management, lead and grow in our work!
A study published in the New York Times states that in regular situations, women and men’s decision making styles are basically the same. However, when there is added pressure, the increased cortisol (stress hormone) in the body impacted men and women differently. Increased cortisol levels in men made them more likely to make riskier decisions. In women, increased cortisol levels meant smarter decision making. Sometimes this trait is spun into the stereotype that women “play it safe” – but that is not necessarily true. Being able to stay focused and determined during a time of stress is a huge asset for any leader. Making smart decisions in times of pressure can help women stand out as a successful and effective leaders.
One popular gender stereotype is that men are more creative than women. But stereotypes aside, we’re here to identify the traits we need for success, and creativity is definitely one of them. Creativity allows space for problem-solving, innovation, and motivation. One of the biggest barriers to harnessing our creative powers, though, is a lack of confidence. In order to really be creative we need to have the confidence to think outside the box and to not be afraid of failure. Using our creative intellect makes us effective, interesting managers and leaders.
Act with purpose and confidence
As we said earlier, confidence can be a barrier to creativity which can be limiting in the workplace. Leaders who are confident lead with purpose. They are empathetic and attentive to the needs of others, but they are able to recognize where expertise lies within the company and to make solid business decisions. If you may have noticed, the cornerstone to all of these successful leadership traits is confidence. We need to be confident in our ability to be empathetic, to be good listeners, to be smart decision makers, and to use our creativity. A history of inequality in the workplace can undermine our confidence -but it’s our time to be in-powered and nav. our lives!. So It is time to take your backpack of successful leadership traits, own them, and highlight them in everything you do!
Image credit: Mirjana Jesic