As an executive and leadership coach, I have worked with a multitude of organizations’ senior leadership teams across verticals. The percentage of women among them would be less than 20%, a reflection of how few women make it as senior leaders in Corporate India.
But this is slowly beginning to change. Organizations are beginning to wake up to the potential of women managers and what they bring to the table. Often described as “hardworking, reliable, trustworthy and dependable” (which are great qualities in a manager but need to be layered by leadership competencies to take them to the next level) the organizations are recognizing the unique developmental needs of women managers and investing in honing their leadership quotient through initiatives like coaching and mentoring.
In this context I’d like to share below some of my observations and experiences of working with women leaders and my learnings from the same.
While coaching them, certain common subconscious belief patterns emerge, despite differences in their industry or role. These are…
- It’s important to be “liked” than being “respected but not liked much”
- Being assertive and taking a stand during high impact meetings means unnecessary and avoidable spotlight
- Handling and managing conflict and having difficult conversations cannot be done without being aggressive, hence it’s avoidable.
- Consciously networking and building a personal brand is opportunistic.
- Ambition at work is at the cost of neglect of home and other responsibilities, hence acute guilt at being seen as ambitious
These are essentially self- limiting beliefs which are deeply rooted in our early childhood experiences and upbringing and get reinforced by our immediate environment and even chance but inappropriate comments
It’s important to recognise these as just that… self -limiting! Once made aware most of the women coachees are able to work through them in a structured and effective manner with clear actionable plans which helps them to slowly overcome their mind blocks. The sense of empowerment and fulfillment that follows is a huge reward that directly impacts both organizational productivity and their own self- worth.
While there is no denying that workplace parity for women has a long way to go, the role that can be played by women themselves is to make sure they become more self-aware about their reasons on what’s holding them back, have an honest assessment of their blind spots and recognise that the ball as much lies in their court.
Leadership is a professional skill that can be developed like any other. Women seeking executive leadership positions should strongly consider participating in programs that help improve their skills and bring their leadership to the next level by addressing some of these issues and creating a clear and compelling professional roadmap for future success.