As a female who has been in leadership roles for as long as I can remember, what follows may seem like I am betraying my gender. But I have repeatedly watched these behaviors sabotage potential leaders.
Of course, generalizations are just that, so not all apply to all female leaders and some will apply to male leaders. But most often when I experience these leadership failures, it has been under the leadership of a woman. Do you see your own leadership mistakes in these scenarios?
1. Using emotions as a crutch or a weapon.
Everyone has emotions, and trying to negate them completely is just ridiculous. However, managing them to an appropriate level is necessary in every leadership scenario. If you can’t manage and lead yourself, why would you believe you can do the same for others? The trick is to find a reasonable balance.
2. Prioritizing other things over leadership.
As a leader, you have to ultimately make all decisions with the best interest of the team in mind. This means that sometimes you have to make very hard choices, particularly in terms of self-sacrifice. The most common example? Choosing family issues over other leadership roles. Of course your family is important; but it cannot always take precedent over the team, or the team soon figures out that they are not a priority for you.
3. Waiting to be invited instead of asking.
A leader must be assertive; it is one of the characteristics that is required for the job. Do you find yourself living with the assumption that if you assert yourself they’re going to think you’re bossy (or worse)? The reality is that leadership and bossy-ness are not the same thing, at least not when done correctly. Asking for the opportunity to lead politely and professionally, regardless of your gender (of course assuming your are qualified!), is always the right, first step.
4. Trying to “lead like a man.”
Quality leadership is gender-less. If you examine the behaviors of any truly high-quality male leaders, none of their actions have to be couched in phrases like, “Well, they can get away with that because they are a man.” Every time a male in a leadership role “gets away” with some behavior, a critical review would show it is not an example of good leadership. Our gender and our personality will ultimately determine our style of leadership, but all of the best leadership skills work equally well whether a man or a woman is the one using them.
5. Struggling to say or do the hard parts of leading.
Projects and processes that require leadership will inevitably have ups and downs. Leading when things are going well is never as challenging as when things are falling short. Giving bad news, making difficult choices, and doing the hard thing is where leadership can truly be evaluated. Letting go of our societal norm of needing to be “liked” and/or getting everyone to “agree” is a critical step to successful leadership.