Leadership qualities to help women breakthrough
By Hamid Safaei
Leadership is about mastering the art of human know-how. First-class leaders surround themselves with people who are better than themselves. In an interview, Jack Ma, the founder of Alibaba Group, said: “If you want to win in the 21st century, empower others, making sure the other people are better than you are. Then you will be successful. I find that women think about others more than they think about themselves.” Is this a good foundation to become a great leader? What if women focused on themselves a bit more than they focused on others?
As Dan Goleman also said: “Emotional intelligence has four parts: self-awareness, managing our emotions, empathy, and social skills. Emotional intelligence tests indicate women tend to score better than men on these skills. During the last decade, we have witnessed multinationals fighting to attract top-performing women to their executive positions. Many women have proved the tests are partially right. Shining examples are Angela Merkel, Sheikh Hasina, Oprah Winfrey, Indra Nooyi, and Meg Whitman, to name a few. However, it is not that black and white. There are elements of emotional intelligence in which men perform better than women. While women tend to score better in emotional empathy, men are inclined to score higher in managing emotions. If leadership is about mastering the art of people knowledge, why do we still not have enough women at the top? In my upcoming book, First-Class Leadership, I demonstrate the premium qualities which have helped first-class leaders achieve breakthrough results. In this article, I share 7 qualities which can help women boost their leadership results.
1. Vision, the why
First-class leaders start their journey with their why. Or as Stephen Covey said in his book, 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, with the end in mind. What gives meaning to the vision of great leaders is their belief in their vision and why they pursue it. They are clear about where they are heading and what they want to achieve. Due to their broad range of interests, it is challenging for many women to focus on one life-changing destination. A qualified coach can help them polish their main why.
What great leaders have in common is their desire to take action towards realising their dreams. Great leaders succeed not because they are more talented or wealthy, but because they love what they do. They use all their inner power to break through barriers, frustrations, and failures. They are fueled by deep passion to achieve what for many seems to be unachievable. While many give up when the going gets tough, first-class leaders determinedly step up their drive until the universe responds and magic happens. For passionate women, often the challenge is identifying the one life-changing vision on which to focus.
“Confident walking is more successful than confused running.” – Rumi
Great leaders know: “If it’s not a HELL YES, it’s a No”. The quick thinking of first-class leaders amazes many. It is neither complex math nor a miracle. Great leaders follow sound algorithms for decision making. They simply follow a system they created based on their values, standards, and principles connecting their strategic decisions to their biggest why, their vision. They quickly analyse if and how – in the long run – a certain choice contributes to attaining their primary objective, the why. Influenced by their powerful empathy, many women may hesitate. First-class leadership, however, requires making quick, and sometimes, unpopular decisions in tough circumstances.
Billionaires Warren Buffet and Bill Gates were once asked to write down one thing they felt attributed most to their success. They both wrote the same word: focus. We can put our attention only on one thing at a time if we want to draw the most from it. When we have too much to handle, we lose focus. There is a Persian expression: “You cannot hold two watermelons with one hand.” If you have ever seen 20-kilogram watermelons, you will follow the logic. Here this expression means you cannot handle two issues simultaneously. Many women claim they can multi-task but in reality this is distracting and causes loss of focus.
In his book, Unlimited Power, Tony Robbins said: “The way we communicate with others and the way we communicate with ourselves ultimately determines the quality of our lives.” In the end, effective teams make organisations great. To inspire teams successfully, leaders need to inspire through communication. All first-class leaders are communication masters. Instead of using jargon and complex terms, great leaders use simplified language to connect with their followers. Using emotions, authenticity and body language, they create fire in the bellies of their followers. Consequently, people around them wish to move forward. This can attract millions of followers. Women can generally harness the power of their emotions and body language when they communicate. If they overcome their limiting beliefs and gain self-confidence, they can attract millions to share their vision.
Confidence is a pre-requisite for all leaders wanting to succeed. When almost everybody has lost hope and is about to give up, first-class leaders stand firm and their confidence and strength is something others lean on. If women can overcome any limiting beliefs and manage their emotions in tough circumstances, they can become the greatest leaders we have ever seen. Angela Merkel and Oprah Winfrey are notable examples.
7. Highly effective teams
Great leaders train their team members to think in team terms by demonstrating how important it is to enjoy, cooperate, and play together. First-class leaders create well-respected roles and responsibilities for each team member. Everyone counts and is proud to be part of the team. Great leaders encourage diversity and recruit team members with complementary skills and expertise. They inspire their teams, make difficult decisions, and set high performance standards, which they continuously adjust and upgrade to reach higher heights. That is why they build great companies that delight customers with amazing products and services. Developing highly effective teams can be a challenge for many women as their strong empathy may be a barrier to building their dream teams.
Bringing it all together
All these leadership qualities are learnable. There is enough evidence indicating women have the potential to claim the highest leadership positions if they master the above mentioned qualities. Overcoming limiting beliefs, building self-confidence, and strategically employing their powerful emotions are perhaps the first steps towards self-actualisation. And a qualified coach will help motivated women break through.
About the author
Hamid Safaei is the author of the upcoming book First Class leadership. He is the founder of ImOcean Academy. Hamid is a qualified executive coach helping executives and budding entrepreneurs make breakthroughs. He has led successful business transformations for a number of Fortune Global 500 companies.