Four Lessons in Leadership for Aspiring Female Leaders
By Theresa West
In honor of Women’s History Month, I took some time out to reflect on my career and the lessons I’ve learned as I worked my way up from an entry level consultant to Director here at The Clearing. I’m sharing them here, alongside some of my favorite quotes from inspiring women in hope of helping other female leaders who may be looking for guidance on their way up.
Embrace Your Strengths
When I first began my career, I was convinced that good leaders all shared certain characteristics. They looked a certain way, behaved a certain way, and followed the same management methods to lead their teams. In practice, I’ve learned that effective leaders come in many shapes and sizes. You don’t need to be a charismatic visionary with big ideas in order to succeed in leadership. You’ll be far more effective if you understand and embrace your own strengths. Love who you are, and bring that authenticity to work with you every day.
“True leadership stems from individuality that is honestly and sometimes imperfectly expressed… Leaders should strive for authenticity over perfection.” – Sheryl Sandberg
Find Your Voice
So many women I know, myself included, have remained silent at times when we should have spoken. We didn’t think we had all the answers – or the right answer – and so we said nothing at all. Over time, I’ve learned that it’s more important to trust my instincts and myself and speak, even if my response is imperfect. The thoughts and opinions we keep to ourselves may be just the ones needed to spark the right answer. Share, and share confidently.
“Courage starts with showing up and letting ourselves be seen.” – Brene Brown
Ask “Why Not?” Instead of Asking “Why?”
When faced with a new opportunity or an overwhelming challenge, it’s natural to be afraid to take a risk. Rather than embracing the possibility of a positive outcome, we have a tendency to approach with fear of failure. Becoming a strong leader means shifting into a more open mindset in which new opportunities yield optimism instead of dread. Asking “Why not?” and “What’s the worst that can happen?” are good ways to set your mind at ease and find the courage to embrace a new opportunity.
“Optimism is the faith that leads to achievement.” – Helen Keller
Don’t Be Afraid to Show Compassion
Our cultures and our careers often teach us that being caring and compassionate shows weakness. In my experience, that couldn’t be further from the truth. It takes courage to be vulnerable and show emotion, and it helps others to trust you. Be a leader, but be a human being first. Show that you care, have compassion, and emulate the values you want to see in your organization. Others will follow your lead.
“To handle yourself, use your head; to handle others, use your heart.” – Eleanor Roosevelt
I would love to hear from other women now. What leadership lessons have you learned in your career? Where do you struggle most in your journey? Whose wisdom do you turn to when you need a boost?