Leadership in today’s America can be categorized by troubling statistics—while women outnumber men on college campuses, they hold only 5 to 20% of leadership positions in various fields and industries. As more and more women carve paths for themselves at companies, labs, and political offices, they’ll need to be prepared for challenges that face any leader. Here are just a few pieces of advice for women in leadership.
Any seasoned professional knows the importance of taking risks. Once you understand the potential pitfalls and payoffs of an opportunity, you can choose to let go or hold on tight and enjoy the ride. Great leaders have made great risks, but the courage to take the plunge in an effort to better your business or yourself is admirable. As a leader, you should develop a system for understanding which risks are worthwhile, and which are simply risky. Create a chart of the strengths and weaknesses of each option, as well as the opportunities it may grant you and the threats that hinder your success. A thorough understanding of yourself, your business, and the world around you are essential when making such important decisions.
Develop Thick Skin
Anyone who has ever been in the spotlight knows that opposition can complicate matters. Leaders are especially privy to the opinions of detractors, as a leader’s decisions can often affect different groups in different ways. While empathy is important, the ability to shake off brusque or downright rude comments is even more so. Leaders must balance a willingness to listen and understand with a willingness to support their actions and choices. If a comment is simply rude and offers no direction, don’t give it the time of day. Wait until a worthwhile opportunity for genuine conversation emerges, and don’t fret over raw emotions.
While it’s important to have thick skin, it’s also important to remain sensitive. Everyone from the fresh-faced new hire to the senior director makes mistakes. What matters is how you bounce back from that mistake. Don’t just ignore it—admit to it, explore why it happened, and make a plan to correct your behavior in the future. Taking responsibility for errors sets a positive example for your employees and promotes transparency between levels of a business. It takes courage to be a leader, as I said, but it also takes courage to admit to a mistake.
Look to the Future
If a leader is the brain of a business, innovation is the heart and soul. Change can be difficult and even scary for employees, but it’s an essential part of a business’s ability to mature and expand its reach. As a leader, you must look to the horizon and search for opportunities to grow, as well as threats that might come your way. The future is never clear, but it also isn’t set in stone. Hard work, planning, and plenty of introspection make up the recipe for success in reaching long-term goals.