Traditionally, there was a dearth of female leaders in many industries, but mercifully more and more women are reaching the senior ranks and changing the face of business today. However, it can still be a delicate balance for female leaders to find the perfect formula for commanding respect without being labeled as overbearing or emotional.
“The main thing is to remain authentic to ourselves,” said Shannon Lee Simmons, financial planner, prominent author and founder of The New School of Finance in Toronto.
“Don’t have an ego. Just be yourself. People respond to authenticity.”
A good leader is only as good as her team, so setting a good example for your team to follow is also key.
“Work very hard and get involved,” said Simmons. “If you’re a person who cares about the business and you’re on the ground getting your hands dirty, people will respond to that.”
Whereas twenty years ago a female leader may have struggled to earn respect from male subordinates, the increase in women at the top of the ladder has changed that negative perception, to a large extent. In spite of this positive change, female leaders sometimes struggle to be assertive without coming across as emotional.
“As a woman in a leadership role you have to show your teeth a little bit,” said Simmons, adding that it is also important to display a positive attitude despite daily challenges.
“Dialing into that fierceness is necessary sometimes. Other days you need to have fun,” said Simmons. “I think you can be both fierce and positive.”
Leveraging the inherent skills of your gender is another great tactic for female leaders. Women are generally wired to be better listeners so Simmons’ advice is to take advantage of that skill through your actions and body language, when talking to colleagues.
“Showing somebody that you care and you’re making space and time for them is so important so they don’t feel like they’re just another cog in the wheel,” said Simmons.”
“You may not be able to please everybody all the time but just be yourself and try to find a common ground for everybody.”