Today, we see many instances of women breaking the proverbial “glass ceiling”, across their professional and personal lives. Moreover, women leaders are more likely to be transformational, empathetic, function as role models for peers and subordinates, be good mentors and coaches and authentic communicators. Also, according to Hay Group (division of Korn Ferry) women score 86% higher than men in emotional self-awareness. It is also a well-known fact that organizations that have gender-balanced teams and women in leadership positions also have a more flexible and empathic work culture that relates to all of the organization’s stakeholders - the diverse customers, employees, and partners.
However, while organizations are increasingly carrying out their Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) strategies, laying down policies and strategies to empower women across all levels within the organization to grow – the ability to be the change, to have the power to lead, must come from within.
The Power to Lead Must Come from Within – How?
The phrase ‘Leaders are born, not made’ may not hold true for many of the leaders we know of, or work with. The converse of this statement, however, does hold true. Leaders are not born but are made through the constant and consistent hard work and zeal to succeed, supported by guidance by the right kind of people surrounding them. Thus, in order to master self-leadership, one has to focus on certain aspects.
First, Know yourself. Ask yourself as an individual, what do you want from yourself? – as a human being first, not as a wife or daughter or mother or as a professional. Once you have the answer to that, you have the clarity of the direction you want to take in your life. Here, be honest to yourself in following what you truly wish to be or do. Follow the callings of your heart and do what you feel is right for you rather than what is expected from you.
The second aspect involves remembering your dreams and aspirations before you were given all the relationship titles of wife, mother, etc., and the responsibilities that came with those. You need to go back to those times when your only focus in life was to study science to become a doctor or an engineer or to start your own technology firm. And from there, start articulating new dreams based on your new realities.
Last, but definitely not the least, is to evaluate your options, priorities in life very carefully before taking any life-altering decisions. Many times, women quit their jobs because they feel that they are unable to give time and attention to their family, their children, only to regret the decision later in life. This can lead to blame games and discord in one’s relationships.
Roadmap to Cultivate the Inner Power to Become a Better Leader
This process of self-empowerment cannot happen in a completely controlled environment nor in isolation. It is a part of the self-actualisation process that happens almost synchronously with the events and lessons one learns from the external environment one exists in. Thus, it happens at two levels: organizational level and individual level.
At organizational level: Over the recent years, organizations have deepened their focus towards establishing robust and sustainable Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) strategies and are making conscious efforts to support women across the hierarchy to grow both professionally and as individuals. Some of the policies and initiatives here include mentoring and coaching of women by women leaders, re- and up-skilling to expand their expertise, second career options to those returning to work, female-centric networking groups, flexi-work models, provision of childcare at office site, sabbaticals due to family commitment/crisis, etc.
At individual level: The change has to come from within to break through the stereotyping and challenging the traditional molds. To do so, women need to be a judge of their own destiny, choose the career path they want, even if it means starting afresh in a completely new industry or profile. Also, they need to raise their voices to be heard and seen and break the myths that they do not possess the requisite qualities of being an effective leader. They must find like-minded people who can guide, mentor, and support them in their professional journey. An important task here is for women to know when to draw the line between professional and personal obligations to ensure that one does not have an adverse impact on the other. Here, it is imperative to be clear and open about their aspirations with their family members who can be one of the strongest support systems in helping one achieve their goals, no matter how hard it may be.
To sum up…
It is important for women to understand that power to lead or power to change lies within themselves. They should not worry about living up to other’s expectations of them but focus on their own dreams and ambitions, while finding a balance between their personal and professional lives. In short, they must stand up for what they believe in and be the change they want to see.