Gender Proof Leadership

On the same week of the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women, Rome Business School also wants to take the time to speak with women, for women.
While the number of female leaders, managers, talents and role models is growing, women aspiring to career advancement are still too frequently subjected to stereotypes and prejudices. In fact, when women assume a leadership position, a promotion or management over a specific project, they tend to immediately become target of criticism. For men, aggression is appraised as a form of assertiveness while assertive women might just be viewed as pushy, stubborn, bossy. “Working for women is complicated, they’re so unstable”: this could be a typical sentence in the office. Even better: “Women just don’t get the big picture, they take everything personally and are just too soft and emotional to make big and hard decisions”. 

It is time for women to look up to all the strong female role models out there and reach their full leadership potential in a biased world. A good way to do this is to showcase objective, indisputable achievements – but also skills and traits. Here are 8 fail-proof traits that any successful leader should have, regardless of gender:

1 – Communication: Authenticity has become the main asset for leadership and honest, transparent communication is certainly the most useful tool to achieve it. However, it’s difficult to open up when judgement and criticism are always waiting behind the door. This can be a major obstacle, especially for women advancing in their career, where they will find less and less female peers. Regardless, this rule is valid for any situation: if your current work environment doesn’t give you a sense of belonging and support, find a new one. In order to progress in your career, it is essential to connect on a deeper level with colleagues, employees and supervisors.

2 – Commitment: Nothing is obtained simply by snapping your fingers. When you want something, it takes dedication and perseverence. Both men and women leaders show strong commitment in the workplace, but women tend to be harder on themselves when things don’t go exactly as planned. Men will make a mistake and move on; women will make a mistake and lose sleep over it. No path is perfectly straight and flat: there are curves and ups and downs that we must all come to accept. Every unexpected turn must be seen as an opportunity to learn and better prepare for future challenges.

3 – Courage: Leaders are typically gutsy individuals who embrace change, dare to be different, and are willing to put themselves at risk. However, women in the workplace have historically not been encouraged to take these kinds of actions or believe in their instincts. Moreover, even when they dare and succeed, any decision can be simply labeled as a lucky guess. As a woman leader, it’s critical you remain undaunted because enough “lucky guesses” will eventually turn heads and get you noticed. Playing it safe will not.

4 – Character: Setting an example is not the main way of influencing others—it’s the only way. In a time when personal, professional and social image ahave become so important, acting with integrity and being a good role model is key. As a female leader, it’s your responsibility to use your power and raise up other diverse colleagues to level the professional playing field.

5 – Creativity: A good leader thinks and acts with the help of a constantly developing imagination. Stand out by building a mindset for the unconventional and pondering ideas that go against the grain. Don’t be afraid to break the rules. 

6 – Caring: Emotional intelligence is just as important as IQ for leaders. To obtain true cooperation and loyalty from team members, you must show you genuinely care about them and respect their contribution, doing the best you can to help them maximize their potential. Remember that emotions are not a liability and do not make you look weak, they can be an asset. Women have a general advantage of being empathetic, so it’s smart to use this natural skill.

7 – Confidence: You must believe in yourself and be willing to stand out in a crowd if you are going to inspire confidence in others. Confidence comes from within, from knowing and believing that you’ve got what it takes. You can become your own worst enemy and nightmare if you’re too embarrassed to show and proclaim your talents, strengths and successes. 

8 – Competence: If you’re not competent, i twill be impossible for you to scale to the top, and even more to stay there. For women leaders, the biggest struggle is probably not to become competent but to see theirselves as competent. In the workplace, it is more likely for women to feel like they have something to prove. Instead of worrying about constantly demonstrating competence and gaining validation, it’s better to focus on continuous learning. Competence is really about the desire to learn, keep learning, and turn learning into leadership.