by Cristina Padilla, Director of Coaching & Engagement & Tiffany Tate, DEI Specialist
For Women’s History Month, ExecOnline is proud to present curated leadership lessons for women by our community of committed and talented female coaches. It has been widely recognized that women are underrepresented in positions of leadership across industries and organizational levels. It is important to champion women in a way that supports their unique leadership development needs. We interviewed nine of our Leadership Coaches who share advice for women leaders and lessons learned from their coaching of women leaders.
In the first of this two-part series, we explore the importance of self-care and confidence building, and how seeking out female role models can provide you inspiration for the type of leader you want to be.
Dr. Tracy Lowrance
The advice I coach female leaders on most often is “put your own oxygen mask on first.” I find female leaders so busy attending to the needs of their teams and their leaders that they end up sacrificing their own health and well-being. I think self-care, which includes setting boundaries, saying ‘no’ and not feeling guilty, and taking care of yourself physically and mentally is one of the most important lessons a female leader can learn.
Suzanne Kryder, PhD
A prominent lesson I coach to female leaders is to confidently act on your own understanding rather than always doing what other leaders did in the past. An important lesson for female leaders is to take care of yourself. Rather than working exhausting hours, role model self-care and balance. My advice is to identify a female leader who you admire and want to emulate. It could be someone in your organization who’s a potential mentor, or it could be someone outside the organization who is living or dead. Learn about her life and motivation. Be inspired by her and grateful for the opportunity to lead.
Diana Jackson-Lovett, PhD
I find two issues to be especially prominent for women ascending into new leadership roles. Those issues are confidence and courage. In my work, I encourage women to consider “confidence” as trusting their ability to figure things out. That trust is based on exploring their previous successful professional experience, experience that women sometimes unconsciously devalue until we bring some achievements to light. With respect to “courage,” again, the goal is to define it not as fearlessness, but as the ability and commitment to “do it afraid.” Helping clients connect with their own successful experiences of “doing it afraid” (from learning to ride a bike to learning how to lead project teams, for example) helps them appreciate their own “fortitude,” their own ability to master challenging situations, and enhances their personal estimation of the strengths and value they bring to their roles.
Female leaders need to practice greater self-care and stronger self-confidence! I often need to tell my female clients explicitly: “Nobody will be on your team until YOU are on your team!”
An important piece of this work, in my experience, is that women often need to learn that they need not be perfect in order to be an effective leader. No one has all the answers or every perfect solution. Women often wait to present their ideas and solutions until they have worked out 99% of the kinks. I encourage my female clients to aim for 75-80% rather than 99%, and then to share their ideas with trusted advisors to move those ideas forward. It serves no one if a great idea never sees the light of day or, just as unfortunate, is credited to some other leader who simply had the gumption to push it forward before it was fully developed.
In my sessions with female leaders, I find that we, as women, often underestimate our abilities and can lack the confidence of our male counterparts. I believe that, as women, we need to support each other, to capitalize on our unique strengths and abilities, and to build our confidence. My advice to women leaders would be to find a female mentor that you respect and admire. Ask this female leader to help you harness your unique strengths and abilities as both a woman and a leader. Don’t be afraid to speak up, ask for help, and be yourself – you have a lot to offer!
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