As a wife, mother, CEO, and manager, I have been called everything from an inspiring leader to a nag.
In today’s workforce, women who embody a strong and direct leadership style are often described as rude, hard-edged, or even as jerks. However, when a man in the same position is direct and forthcoming in his management style, he is typically considered a strong and motivating leader. Why do men and women who take the same approach to leading people get different interpretations of their character? Are women doomed to be thought of as either meek or dictatorial?
I don’t think so! Whether you are leading one person, managing clients, or managing a team of two hundred, it’s critical for you to stand for your leadership as a strong and powerful woman.
Until I practiced the following three management strategies, people thought that I was either too weak or too strong in my leadership roles. After implementing these three strategies, I am what Goldilocks would call “just right.”
1. What Do They Want AND What Do I Want?
A leader’s goal is to get what she wants from people. The challenge is that people don’t do you what you want unless they get something in return. The first step as a strong leader is to ask what they want. You need to be clear on what you want, too. That way, working together, you can find where these desires intersect. Then co-create expectations, guidelines and rules that allow you to be on the same page. The key is to work toward a common goal to achieve your shared desires.
2. Have Manager ‘Abilities’
Life happens, and things don’t always go according to plan. You will need to course-correct. A manager will use her two best “abilities” to get back on track: response-ability and account-ability.
Response-Ability: You have the ability to respond to a situation by exploring possible solutions until you find one that works. A leader who takes response-ability starts by being proactive. She determines how to change her approach, because she knows she can change herself but cannot change other people.
Account-Ability: A powerful leader holds herself and her team accountable for the commitments she and her team agreed to. When holding your team accountable, ask them to provide status updates before you ask for them. If you have to ask, be forthright but kind when you discuss what kept them from honoring their commitment. Balance the direct talk with an intention to learn and improve as a team.
I invite you to challenge yourself by asking your team to hold you accountable as well. Together you can deal with the cause of any problems and learn to approach the task differently next time. Accountability isn’t meant to be a punishment; it is meant to be a structure you can count on for workability.
3. Be Willing to be Wrong
Nobody is perfect. However, as humans we want everybody else to think we are flawless – especially when we are in a leadership position. A powerful leader admits when she is wrong.
When I was a new leader, I wanted to prove my worth and brush my errors under the rug. I learned quickly that someone always knew. When I stopped doing that and acknowledged, “I made a mistake,” I truly earned the trust and respect of my team.
When you’re willing to be wrong and be told you are wrong, you can improve and grow as a leader. Your team’s creativity, innovation and trust increase because the fear of ridicule diminishes. If you want to be able to trust your people more, be the role model who is open to feedback.
The goal is not to be perfect. The goal is to be professional. A professional who handles a mistake well is a strong and inspiring leader.
About Your Columnist
Jen Hamilton is a featured columnist for Women Taking Charge, the official blog of Connected Women of Influence, where she covers all things human resources and managing people in the workplace. where she covers ways to get people to do their job right, professionally, and work well with others. Jen is the CEO and co-founder of Institute for Mastering Success, a training and development company that supports their clients in escalating their teams into promotable people.
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