10 Great Pieces of Leadership Advice for Women (and Men) Leaders

10 Great Pieces of Leadership Advice for Women (and Men) Leaders

I had the opportunity to sit in on a client’s International Women’s Day Panel discussion today. They had 4 fabulous female leaders share their lessons, challenges, and advice with their team at their head office. The leaders represented different ages, functions, and levels within the organization. They shared openly and vulnerably, and it was great to hear their lessons. Here are 10 great pieces of Leadership advice I gleaned from the discussion.

1. Confidence is crucial.

The theme of the need for confidence came up time and again. Confidence is tough to gain if you don’t naturally have it. The following tips will help, though.

2. Be true to yourself.

Peer pressure sucks. It can be difficult to stand apart from the crowd and be different, but it is powerful when you realize what you stand for and own it personally. Being authentic and true to your own values takes courage and builds confidence.

3. Don’t wait for opportunities.

When you know what’s important to you, and what you want out of your career and life, look for opportunities. Create opportunities. Put your hand up to take on a new project, to solve a problem that’s challenging, or to meet a leader you look up to. You need to manage your career, make it clear to others what you want, and and go for it.

4. Find your way to keep motivated.

Keeping yourself motivated is your job, it’s not your boss’s job or your company’s job. They can create the environment for you to motivate yourself, but at the end of the day, what motivates you is up to you. For me, motivation comes in many forms – reading the latest blogs, watching TED talks, coaching other leaders, and just getting outside with my dog all keep me energized, inspired and motivated to be at my best. Find what works for you and make a commitment to yourself to invest some time in that.

5. Get over your guilt about not being SuperMom.

This is often a theme – women feel guilty about not being there as much as they feel they should have, for forcing their children to take care of themselves faster than they think they should. This guilty feeling was met with lots of encouragement from both men and women leaders in the audience who could relate from both sides (as children or as parents), and that it all works out in the end, that the guilt was absolutely unnecessary.

6. Ask for help.

For many women, it’s not just being super mom that we strive for, but for being superwoman. We often shy away from asking for help, wanting to break stereotypes about women being weaker than men. But asking for help when you need it shows strength. It makes you stronger. It displays courage. And it teaches others that nobody does it all alone.

7. Join (or start) a Girls Club.

In many organizations, especially in fields predominated by men (like technology, engineering, manufacturing), there is a “boys club” mentality, and it is difficult for women to feel like they are fully accepted. Someone asked “Why isn’t there a girls club?”, and the great thing is that there are – if you seek them out. The Women in Business Network is one that I’ve been a member of for a few years, but there are lots out there. And if you can’t find one, start one! Invite women leaders in your company to have lunch together regularly to share and solve challenges.

8. Be aware of unconscious bias.

There are so many biases that both women and men hold without thinking of them. One of the unconscious biases that stands out to me is one that the Lean In book / movement discusses, called Performance attribution bias. Basically, women tend to attribute success to external factors like help from others, luck, working hard, while men tend to attribute success to their own innate abilities. The opposite is true for failure, with women seeing their own failings as causing failure, while men tend to attribute failure to external factors. Watch out for this for yourself, and if you’re a woman, be proud of your accomplishments. If you’re a man, find opportunities to recognize women for their success.

9. Watch for “mansplaining”.

This one came from a man in the audience, who said that men need to be more aware of the culture they create. Mansplaining is one example. Mansplaining, according to Dictionary.com, is (of a man) to comment on or explain something to a woman in condescending, overconfident, and often inaccurate or oversimplified manner.” Check out this tumblr blog for examples. And just don’t do it.

10. Ask someone to mentor you.

Linked to making your own opportunities and to asking for help, is to ask for a mentor. Is there someone you admire as a leader at work? Or someone who has a certain set of abilities you’d like to hone? Ask them to mentor you. You’ll be amazed at the response – one of the greatest compliments you can pay someone is that you’d like to learn from them. Find someone to show you the ropes, to be a sounding board, and to share what they’ve learned.

Three Bonus Resources to Help Develop Women Leaders:

  1. Tips for the Workplace from Lean In
  2. This TED talk from the creator of Scandal, How to Get Away With Murder and Greys Anatomy (yes all three!) gives some insight into how Shonda Rimes keeps herself motivated.
  3. This Virgin Disruptors Debate has tons of tidbits about what amazing workplaces are doing to advance women leaders:


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