Virtuous Traits of a Woman in a Leadership Position

Mar 31, 2014

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By: Kate Kenney, ProNexus Partner

Women are sometimes worried that they are viewed as aggressive rather than assertive when in a leadership position.  Throughout my career I have learned to tame the aggressive part of my personality to not be seen as “emotional” or “bitchy”.  Early in my career, my approach was to go after what I wanted without thinking of the soft skills necessary to get there without making enemies.  Over the years, I pride myself in learning what skills to use and when depending on who my audience is.  Of course this is something that I have to consistently work on.

One of the soft skills I learned in my thirties was to engage in behaviors that earn admiration before I assert my authority.   What are those behaviors? According to the LinkedIn post by Adam Grant titled Why Girls Get Called Bossy, and How to Avoid It, after decades of research, some believe that there are two paths to earning status: competence and caring. I look up to people who are capable and concerned about others. I follow people once they’ve demonstrated that they have unique skills and will use them for the benefit of the group.  If you learn the soft skills as how to lead by empowering others, complementing when earned and knowing your audience, I believe both women and men earn the respect of others.   I view these behaviors simply as approach versus a gender item. 

In the LinkedIn post by Adam Grant, there is also extensive evidence that the men and women who gain the most status are those who are giving and generous. By helping others, sharing credit, and showing an interest in others’ opinions, men and women alike gain respect. Teammates end up rooting for them, instead of gunning for them.

That being said, I am sure that women in their fifties feel different about this then women in their thirties and forties.  Times they are a changing and women are now being seen for what they can accomplish and how they are able to manage both their career and home responsibilities.  The best women leaders I know have circular vision that enables them to be well-rounded people. For example, they have their finger on the pulse of pop culture and can talk to you about the latest celebrity news – but then easily switch gears to give you their perspective on real business issues.   These women are master multi-taskers and highly collaborative though not afraid to speak up when they are passionate about an issue.  The women leaders I’ve been around don’t stop pursuing until the job gets done.  They invest in themselves and become knowledge seekers who are not afraid to ask questions when given a safe platform to express themselves.

I look forward to seeing what happens in the next 30 years as more women are recognized for their unique talents and lead organizations with equally qualified men. 

 

References:

http://www.linkedin.com/today/post/article/20140316150417-69244073-why-girls-get-called-bossy-and-how-to-avoid-it

http://online.wsj.com/news/articles/SB10001424052702304360704579419150649284412

http://www.forbes.com/sites/glennllopis/2014/02/03/the-most-undervalued-leadership-traits-of-women/

Post by Kaitlin Alfvin

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