2020 set the stage for the rise of diverse leadership styles that broke the traditional mold. Numerous women leaders stepped up to take the center stage on their terms, to lead their communities with inclusive compassion, courage and wisdom in their inimitable ways. They are powerful role models for a world which is witnessing a growing emphasis on compassion, empathy and deep inclusion. The winds of change are blowing hard. Now is the time for women to consciously develop their unique leadership styles that uphold their authentic truths and represent with power.
Women have an intuitive ability to lead from the heart which allows them to organically build empathetic, inclusive and interdependent work spaces that connect and nurture while ensuring results.
The existent barriers to women's growth, leadership and representation are unlikely to fade overnight. However, strategic thinking will allow women with leadership responsibilities and aspirations navigate their ways around the challenges posed by gender norms, stereotypes and the Likeability Conundrum.
So where do we start?
By getting Behind Our Authentic Selves
Being held to strict gender norms with harsh penalties for deviations has conditioned many of us women to automatically minimize ourselves to fit it. We pay a steep price for this belonging. We become overcautious, sacrificing our voices, originality, purpose and ability to create value and meaning. Anxiety is a constant companion for many, which not only affects our wellbeing, but also limits our ability to lead.
We become aliens in our own skins as we offer up carefully curated images that we believe are acceptable in our workplaces. But here is the bitter truth : No matter how sleek and competent an image we present, if we feel like a square peg in a round hole, then we do not belong, either in the space nor in our skin.
Getting behind our authentic selves is not only a call to connect with the truth of who we are and what we stand for. It is also an act of self compassion and empowerment, which allows us to be more aware, constantly evolving versions of ourselves capable of making positive differences in our ecosystems.
Discover Purpose, Create Meaning & Value
Call it by any name- a grand dream, vision, the why of our journey, or purpose - but we all have a reason for being that remains concealed until we consciously explore and examine the question : What truly gives me joy?
Knowing the why of our journey is critical. It is what grants meaning to our life and is often is larger than the mundane needs of daily living. When we know what makes our lives meaningful, we are able to identify who our real stakeholders are and intentionally find the paths and connections that will allow us to create value for them.
The numbers game is passé. While there are those who measure the value of their networks in terms of its strength, the emphasis on meaningful connection is growing and emerging as a leadership essential across the world. One of the most important investments we can make in ourselves is to create an ecosystem of people with diverse interests, experience, expertise and backgrounds, who will support our growth. Women tend to have a natural advantage here. With technology having flattened our world, everyday we wake up to innumerable opportunities to lead from our heart, make meaningful connections and build interdependent relationships.
Growth requires movement, and for us to develop a mindset where we can view our journey of movement. This can be a challenge for many women who are conditioned for perfection. Perfection is an illusion, one that distorts our viewing lens to right vs wrong and better vs terrible, which often limits our progress. Growth requires movement, for us to view our progress in terms of forward or backward.
Actively Build Your Personal Brand
We are all walking stories, nuanced by what we share of ourselves, how we share it and most importantly by how well our actions, words and behaviors validate who we say we are. The people we meet and interact with are forming their opinions about us and talking about it. If we do not take charge of our narrative, we will become hostages to the stories others write for us.
Personal Branding is so much more than building influence, creating a digital footprint, selling oneself (as if we are cans of soup) or window dressing our specialness as we see it. It calls for systematic stakeholder centered process with three essential components :A Brand Blue Print, Brand Development & Brand Story Telling. To build a personal brand is an investment you make in your growth and development as a person and a leader.
Personal Branding is for everyone; More so for women because mere hard work and conformity will not bring us the success we desire or deserve. We must be willing to be seen as our best selves and consistently show up as that.
To read more from Rehka Saleela Nair, visit her LinkedIn here.