Updated: Dec 31, 2020
There is an immense deal of public interest in ensuring that more women become leaders in their workplace. Most Americans find women indistinguishable from men on key leadership traits such as intelligence and capacity for innovation, with many saying they’re stronger than men in terms of being compassionate and organized leaders, according to a Pew Research Center survey.
In my 20+ years of experience working in corporate America, I’ve seen first hand the impact women leaders have and the success they bring to organizations and companies nationwide. I collaborated with other leaders on the development and execution of a company-wide mentoring program where we broke down the mindset of a leader. With that in mind, I need to ask you a question: Are you managing and calling it leadership?
“Isn’t managing a part of leadership?”
To a certain extent, yes, but there is a difference between leadership and management.
A leader sets the vision, clears roadblocks, then motivates, encourages, and inspires people to action. A manager assigns tasks, drives deadlines, and tracks daily activities. Have you been walking in the manager's shoes, but proclaiming to be a leader?
If you’re unsure, let me break down the three key characteristics of a leader. Then, let’s assess how you measure up.
1. Set the Vision
Leaders have vision. Having goals is fantastic, but if you don’t have a vision, you won’t know where you’re going and where you’re taking your team. The vision you have is not simply something you hang on a wall or send out in a monthly newsletter. This vision permeates the workplace and is embodied in the actions, beliefs, and values of you and your organization. It’s something you model daily.
When you share a strong vision, something that is bigger than the daily tasks accomplished, your team will flock to it, choosing to be a part of something that holds a bigger purpose for their work.
Here are some fundamentals to keep in mind when setting a vision. The vision must:
Be clear and set direction and purpose for the organization
Reflect the unique strengths, culture, values, and beliefs of the organization
Help employees feel that they’re a part of something bigger than themselves and their daily work
Be communicated daily
Serve as the why for your decisions and course of actions
Challenges your team to stretch, grow, and outdo themselves
Take some time to write the vision down and make it plain. Your team and organization are depending on it
2. Clear Roadblocks
Remember, lady, you’re not thinking on a maintaining level. You’re paving the path for those behind you and leading the way to your vision. You want to create the clearest path to set your team up for success. With that being said, what obstacles can you eliminate to create that success for them?
Roadblocks can be anything that keeps your team or personnel from performing their work in the most productive fashion. This can include policies, procedures, management practices that cause conflicts, or a lack of critical resources.
The manager in you will determine what these roadblocks are and create solutions to solve them right away. But the leader in you will analyze the root cause of the roadblocks. You’ll think ahead and find a strategic plan on how to prevent these issues from arising again or creating new procedures to avoid them altogether. Your job is to talk and listen to employees, observe and engage in your organization, and tackle issues head-on. You actually invite conflict. That’s right, you invite it! You don’t shy away from it because you want to explore every avenue that might deter your personnel from being successful in their work and mitigating any possible obstacles that may interfere with your organization's vision. Go ahead Lady, pave the way!
3. Motivate and Inspire to Take Action
Motivating and inspiring people can be difficult. Why? Because people can read disingenuous encouragement. Motivating others to take action is going to take more than a well-organized speech that you present one time. If you want to motivate your team to take action, then you must take action as well. Here are some ways to do so.
Get to know your team with one on one time. Ask them their opinion on issues and ask them for suggestions. Ask a simple question such as, “If you were the owner/leader/CEO, what would you do differently?” It’s amazing the ideas and perspective you’ll receive when you place them in that position. Also, see what motivates them. What are their personal goals, dreams, and what’s their why? Knowing their drive will allow you to make decisions that move everyone forward.
Next, it's time for you to take action. Encourage training, mentorship, shadowing, or educational opportunities. Ask more questions such as, “What do you need from me right now to better yourself personally and professionally?” Remind them of your vision to challenge them to greater versions of themselves.
Make sure you praise and compliment. No one’s ever said “I’m sorry. I don’t like to get recognized.” Just make sure you find out if they prefer public or private recognition. Not everyone is the same.
Bring purpose back into their work. Have them meet or see the end goal of who they help or serve. Let them meet the customer, even if it’s just for a few minutes. Seeing the human impact in their work can be a greater motivator than charts and numbers.
Seek their involvement and delegate. Some things do come from the top down, but allowing them to make decisions on a peer to peer level helps solve issues in real-time on the frontlines. Now, delegate: give your team the opportunity and responsibility to deliver challenging work, encouraging them to seek you if they need assistance. Don’t underestimate the wisdom, knowledge, and experience of your employees. Give them room to perform and support them in their journey, and you will see both your team and the organization excel.
Click. Clack. Click. Clack. What’s that, you ask? That’s the sound of you walking in the shoes of a leader, lady. Now that you’re armed with the tools to tackle obstacles that may arise for you or your team, let’s see where you stand with your current leadership mindset. I’ve helped a plethora of women with guidance in establishing their development plan, and I can do the same for you. My free leadership assessment is designed with you in mind to identify your leadership strengths and opportunities. With the results of this assessment, you’ll be able to pinpoint focus areas on your leadership journey. Take your FREE leadership assessment by clicking below and start moving forward in your new shoes.