Straight Advice for Female Leaders
Presidential hopeful Senator Hillary Clinton’s election campaign is in full swing and there are myriad issues to tackle. Perhaps first and foremost is the fact that Sen. Clinton is a woman. While political correctness often dictates the honesty level in many discussions, the reality is many voters are grappling with how they feel about women in power. Even in the corporate world, female leaders face unique challenges that their male counterparts do not. To demonstrate their strength, many women try to overcompensate and rule with an iron fist, which doesn’t do much for building teamwork. Instead of going to extremes, women leaders could emulate the path of another highly successful and female leader.
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Karlin Sloan, international executive coach and author of “SMARTER, FASTER, BETTER: Strategies for Effective, Enduring, and Fulfilled Leadership,” sees first hand what happens when women go overboard with the proverbial muscle-flexing.
“Female leaders are outnumbered, they’re trying to make headway in a male-dominated environment and that can be tricky,” says Sloan. “But developing a dictatorial leadership style almost always backfires. Instead of gaining the respect and trust of your staff, you wind up isolating them. That has a trickle down effect on production, sales, and other measures of success.”
Sloan, who, by the way, is a woman, recommends that women develop their own leadership style based on their strengths and some common sense strategies.
“Women need to be honest with themselves and admit that yes, as a female they may have staff members who stereotype them as being weak or emotional,” says Sloan. “Don’t let that influence you to become overbearing or to create a ‘tough guy’ persona for yourself. That takes too much energy-- energy that you could use in more effective ways.”
That’s why Sloan’s mantra of SMARTER, FASTER, BETTER is sound advice for women who want to prove ‘em all wrong by becoming great leaders. Sloan uses real-life business scenarios to demonstrate how the paradox of actually slowing down, taking time to reflect and focusing on the greater good can create a leader who is smarter, faster and better.
To be smarter, leaders stop trying to be an expert and ask more questions. Smart leaders know how to ask the right questions, how to distribute and manage information and how to surround themselves with smart and talented people.
To be faster, leaders take time to reflect and focus. Slowing down sounds contradictory to working faster, but innovation often happens when you relax and lose track of time; that’s when your brain is in the “alpha” or “theta” states.
To be better, leaders stop focusing solely on gaining a competitive edge. Instead, they direct their energy on improving themselves, their team members, their organization, their industry, their customers and their communities. Leadership is no longer about "me," it’s about "we."
“If you can show that you’re an effective, enduring leader, you’ll blast those stereotypes,” says Sloan. “Great leaders improve employee morale, workplace environment and the community. They strengthen the bottom line by creating loyalty with employees, customers and the community— the result of showing they value their staff and take civic responsibility.”
SMARTER, FASTER, BETTER encourages leaders to practice sustainable working styles for themselves and employees, advocating a balance between work and home life.
“This has always been a big issue for women in the workplace,” says Sloan. “As a leader, you can turn around absenteeism and job turnover by using traditional female attributes; by being empathetic to your staff’s needs. Not only do you build more solid rapport with your employees when you focus on them, you also save money with better, more focused performance, fewer absences, and reduced turnover.”
By building a team that sees you as a concerned, fair and flexible leader, women can ultimately become leaders who are touted for their strengths and abilities; leaders who earn their team’s vote every day.