There may still be more men than women in executive roles (for now), but there are also many women who have risen to the top, overcoming countless obstacles and claiming their rightful places as strong female leaders in business. If you want to home in on your inner Sheryl Sandberg or Meg Whitman, there are several characteristics these resilient women have in common that are worth investigating.
This may be the biggest difference between male and female CEOs. Men can be nurturing as well, of course, but generally speaking, women tend to get more involved in employees’ lives and really get to know them as people. They tend to care more about their team’s personal lives and the specific projects individuals are working on.
Men often have a “work hard, play hard” attitude that can lead to a disregard for personal issues in the office. Women, on the other hand, have a nurturing quality that creates a family-like environment. A sense of belonging to a community is powerful for team members. It increases loyalty and a desire to succeed.
If you’ve ever worked with (or dated!) someone who doesn’t communicate well, you know how frustrating it can be. Whether it’s a team environment or a one-on-one conversation — or dealing with employees, co-workers, or clients — good communication helps everything run smoothly. Women tend to over-communicate, which is not a bad thing. It ensures that everyone is on the same page.
Excellent communication is a wonderful trait in any team member, but when it’s your leader who guarantees clarity, it’s a tremendous benefit. It helps get better results for the team and the company.
Multitasking can have its downsides, but being good at it can help as you progress in the business world, especially as a woman. This is because it’s more about creating balance than about typing a memo while you eat breakfast.
Women who care deeply about their careers are often in a difficult spot if they also have a family or want to have a family. The discussion of whether or not women can “have it all” never seems to stop. But the women who have created successful careers for themselves and are (happily) married with kids have learned to balance their lives.
If you can multitask between your work life and your personal life and figure out that balancing act, you can translate that skill into creating balance within teams, meetings, and company organizations.
This is the biggest, most important quality in successful, leading women. They know what they’re good at and what they’re passionate about, and they’re able to delegate the rest. Look at the skills you have and figure out your unique abilities. That’s what you have to offer, and that’s what you can capitalize on. That’s what women like Sheryl Sandberg and Meg Whitman have done. They’ve brought in people to take care of areas that they either don’t enjoy or don’t excel at.
We recently brought on a design director. I don’t care for graphic design, but this woman is enthusiastic about it. She has developed her skills so well over the years, and she has such strong communication and nurturing skills, that she’s made a huge difference in our company in a short amount of time. I now consider her indispensable.
You may not aspire to be the next CEO of Yahoo!, but understanding the characteristics that helped Marissa Mayer rise to the top can help you develop skills for your own leadership roles. Depending on your field, it might feel like a boys’ club at times, but don’t be afraid to embrace your nurturing side and show them what a female leader can do.
Lena Requist established herself as a powerful force in business before joining ONTRAPORT as COO in 2009. Her background in corporate finance and successful business building has helped to grow the ONTRAPORT organization 5,000 percent, landing ONTRAPORT at No. 102 on the 2012 Inc. 500 list. Lena has a passion for helping female entrepreneurs and is the founder of a virtual Women in Business group, where empowered women can share their strengths, struggles, and triumphs with each other. Connect with Lena on Google+.