I finally got around to reading the book Lean In by Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg. It was a good read and it got me thinking about my journey as a female leader.
The interesting fact is that I never thought about my gender while studying or while working in the corporate world.
While studying for engineering in India, females were a huge minority. But I didn’t have time to think about my gender. All I thought about was how to be ahead of the curve.
Even in the workplace, I never felt that I missed out on any opportunity because of my gender. I was always given an opportunity if I had demonstrated potential and I showed interest. I believe that this is what Sheryl was alluding to in her book that it is very important for females to ask for those opportunities and more importantly believe that they can perform.
Having the confidence and grabbing the opportunity are both equally important.
Universal Leadership Skills
Let’s shift our focus to leadership skills. The question that came to my mind was this:
Are leadership skills different for women versus men?
During my career, I came across a couple of male co-workers who ignored my opinions for what seemed like a gender bias. But in the majority of the cases, my opinions weighed as much as others. I tend to think of these two cases as errors in judgment.
I remember once a female co-worker came to me for advice on dealing with a male colleague. When I heard her concerns, I didn’t see anything that she was doing wrong specific to her gender but it was a generic leadership skill she needed to work on.
My conclusion from my experience is that leadership skills are consistent across the board whether we are talking about female or male leaders.
The same soft skills that work for male leaders also work for female leaders as well.
The aspect that women need to keep in mind is how they think internally. Are they constantly thinking about their gender or are they thinking of themselves as peers to other colleagues. Keep in mind that your internal thoughts seem to always have an external effect.
Whenever I was in a leadership position, I never thought “How am I going to be perceived as a woman.” I always thought about “How I am going to be perceived as a leader” and it always worked for me. I made similar mistakes as potentially a male coworker would and I learned the same way as he would.
Directing Our Emotions
I remember attending a leadership program designed only for women. I distinctly remember the first day, the coordinator of the program pointed us to boxes of tissues on our table in case we needed them. I was put off by that comment.
Why would the coordinator assume that we as female leaders would be shedding tears?
I tend to think if we want to be emotional, we should be directing our emotions towards excelling and leading right.
So what do you think about women’s leadership? Do you find that you have less or more control over how you focus, learn, react, and perceive things? Or are you more inclined to think otherwise? How does this type of thinking impact your level of influence where you work? I would love to hear your thoughts!
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