How aspiring females can achieve their first leadership role

Throughout history we have seen many powerful women across the world excel in leadership and demonstrate key characteristics that, if emulated and embraced, have the power to fundamentally change society for the better.

Women have an advantage in leadership as they possess many of the requisite traits to be excellent leaders. All they need to do is embrace their natural leadership talents, including limitless inner strength, instincts and innate wisdom.

Women also possess high emotional intelligence, which connects them to the needs, concerns and hopes of their communities and the people they lead. This makes women resilient and adept at leading in a crisis.

Emotional intelligence has been hailed as the new science of human relations and the biggest predictor of workplace performance. To break through into one’s first leadership role, a woman needs to recognise and acknowledge that she has leadership potential. However, each leader brings to leadership her own unique set of skills, values, and behaviours. These trait differences become the precursor assets and risks, which help shape a leader’s success or failure.

Purpose: First, a woman on a leadership journey must identify her passion and purpose and strive to connect that purpose to the organisation and the team that she intends to lead and must operate from that purpose.

Purpose is the main source of energy from which leaders pull their strength to carry on when things become complex. When one leads from purpose, there is no limit to how far one can go and how much a team can achieve.

Leading from purpose leads to strengthened feelings of self-worth, which leads to self-confidence and self-fulfilment and enables teams to give positive engagement to the organisation to go the extra mile to deliver beyond what is necessary.

Vision: Vision is the fundamental emotive force that drives everything else in a leader’s life, and it is the most potent motive for her actions.

To be a leader, a woman needs to know and articulate her vision, mission and values and realise that these are non-negotiable. She should set mini-goals for herself and practice these towards her leadership profile.

She should embrace what she does well as a person and know what her team needs. She should inspire trust and confidence, respect a standard by which she interacts with her team, and be open and direct in her communications with others and reinforce these values in her team.

Emotional Intelligence: To breakthrough in leadership, a woman should harness her sixth sense and horn in on her high emotional intelligence, empathy, compassion, care and survival instinct. She needs to embrace her unique capabilities and strengths and draw upon the relevant tools and resources that any leader requires.

She must identify her unique superpowers and articulate and leverage these in her role without approaching leadership development, focusing on gender. Emotional intelligence has been widely recognised as the driving force behind the majority of leadership skills. Its self-awareness and social awareness skills give leaders the ability to recognise emotions in themselves and others. This understanding provides leaders with the ability to manage behaviours and relationships. It also provides a clear understanding of what one does well and what motivates them to peak performance.

Strategic Thinking: To be a leader, one needs to raise her profile and strengthen relationships with her colleagues. She needs to develop strategic thinking and enhance her systems knowledge. A leader needs to think long-term and understand the impacts of her decisions in all business areas and her team.

She should stay alert and receptive toopportunities and different approaches of thinking and different perspectives of looking at opportunities, challenges, and emerging issues to lead effectively.

Courage: The old adage that a lady should be seen and not heard is out-dated. A woman leader should demonstrate courage by living by her unique style and approach as a woman leader. She should embrace the power of voice and perspective and become more self-affirming, and take pride in the value that she creates.

She needs to have a grounded sense of self-worth and should be assertive and speak up and articulate herself whenever an opportunity arises. To break into her first leadership role, a woman should invest in a mentor and a coach and sponsor to help her with career development, advocate on her behalf for stretch projects and visibility, and support her and challenge her in her skills development.

Justina Mutale, Author The Art of iconic Leadership: Power Secrets of Female World Leaders.

Mutale is a speaker and leadership expert. In 2012, she was named African Woman of the Year. She is the Founder and President of the Justina Mutale Foundation. She advocates for gender equality and women and girls’ empowerment in political participation and economic empowerment, providing leadership and entrepreneurship training and mentorship.

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