It probably will come as news to no one that gender stereotypes exist everywhere. From sceptics raising their eyebrows over women in STEM to regular exclamations about ‘women drivers’ the bias is almost ubiquitous. While there are certain functions like customer service and human resource in which women are expected to excel, there are others like sales, operations, engineering, IT, R&D, and facilities management that are perceived as male bastions. Inevitably, this bias extends to leadership roles as well.
The making of effective leaders
Ideally, gender should not dictate whether an individual can or cannot be a great leader — a person’s leadership abilities should depend on their individual strengths and personality traits. From Mahatma Gandhi to Mother Teresa, leaders have had the ability to both inspire as well as move swathes of people. While each leader is unique and brings his or her own traits, there are several common factors that go into making great leaders. Some of these include an ability to:
· Make the difficult choices
· Introspect and improve
· Articulate a clear vision
· Rally the troops
· Lead by example
· Inspire and motivate
There is also an argument to be made that women can make great leaders from the perspective of the unique attributes that they bring to the table.
Women in leadership
Given the multiple roles that women have been playing since time immemorial, they have the ability to view work more holistically, more as a component of their overall life plan. As a result, they eschew a siloed approach in favour of a more comprehensive and holistic one. It also indicates that they are prepared for multitasking and can handle crisis situations very well.
An extension of this holistic approach is pursuing their jobs in a more self-reflective manner. They put their people ahead of them and are quick to identify their own limitations and work on them. What this essentially means is that they tend to value the softer, but equally important factors, such as meaning, purpose, connection with co-workers, and work-life integration. This also makes them agile and flexible and generally more open to make and accept change
Further, as leaders, women tend to be more empathetic, place a greater premium on relationships, and be more nurturing. This enables them to not just focus on teamwork but also optimally harness the potential of individual team members by empowering them to develop their own strengths and skills. Most importantly, women are leaders who share their knowledge and connect with their colleagues to help the team and the business. This attitude makes them stronger and more effective. However, it is important to note that the argument being made is not that women leaders are better than their male counterparts. Rather, it is to acknowledge that women bring their own unique brand of skills to the table – skills that can be highly valued in a leader. Hence, their contributions and capabilities should not be dismissed.
Time to chuck the gender lens
The bottom line is that when women are given the opportunity to excel, they often do rise to the occasion. For that matter, as do men, particularly when they feel the need to prove themselves in non-traditional roles. Great leadership hinges upon an individual’s willingness to evolve, proclivity to search for, and leverage, opportunities to grow through challenging job assignments, and support mentoring and guidance. This is true for both males as well as females. At the end of the day, both
men and women have the ability to hone their capabilities and develop leadership skills, and no specific area needs to be reserved for one or the other.
(The article has been penned down solely by Anupama Sharma, Executive Director, IIFL Wealth Management for BW People Publication)