Women in Leadership: The double-bind of assertiveness and influence

minute‘I don’t have a traditionally female way of speaking – I’m quite assertive. If I didn’t speak the way I do, I wouldn’t have been seen as a leader. But my way of speaking may have grated on people who were not used to hearing it from a woman. It was the right way for a leader to speak, but it wasn’t the right way for a woman to speak. It goes against type.’

 

These are the words of Kim Campbell, who served as Prime Minister of Canada in 1993.

It’s a message that’s not uncommon when female leaders talk about the challenges they face in being influential in powerful roles. The dilemma boils down to a few core points:

1. Whether we like it or not, even in the 21st Century, mainstream societies all over the globe perpetuate stereotypes about how women (and men) should behave

2. We are all primed to succumb to these associations about men and women, and sometimes they happen on a such a subconscious level that we hardly recognise our own biases

3. As leaders, women need to understand these biases (I didn’t say condone them) and develop a level of awareness and a range of skills that enable them to shine and be influential.

So how do we do that? In practical terms, there many ways to achieve this, but here are three simple concepts that you can explore to shape and cultivate your leadership influence as a woman…

#1 Understand the dynamics of male and female communication

That’s right, we all know that there are gaps in the way we relate between the genders at times. But what are the common ones, why do they exist, and what can you do to navigate them and minimise the potential for misunderstanding?

#2 Optimise your confidence

Yes, it’s true that we women win all the prizes when it comes to being our own worst critics. To be influential, you need to be confident – and to be confident, you need to back yourself. So we need to learn how to find the right balance between confidence and modesty, assertiveness and diplomacy.

#3 Get into the Driver’s seat

Understand that more opportunities present themselves to people who are open to them and seek them out. As women leaders we need to know how to set ourselves up to thrive, how to ensure our lives are richer for the experience, and how to make sure we take other women along with us.

Investing in our potential as leaders is the kind of investment that pays off – not just for us, but for all of the people around us. Too many women leave their leadership careers to chance, and never take the time to examine their abilities as a leader, how they influence others and what their potential could be. Don’t let that be you.

Written by Pamela Cronin

Pamela Cronin facilitates Bright*Star’s Leadership Development for Women.  

NEW Speakers for Web 201318Pamela Cronin has more than 15 years’ experience working with organisations across the public and private sectors.  Her training combines rich, contemporary theory and stimulating activity, providing practical tips and advice.  Pamela draws on her expertise in the areas of people management, business strategy, communication and team development to deliver challenging learning in a personable way. She is an accredited Team Management Index (TMI) Facilitator, and is the author of the Brooker’s New Zealand ‘Guide to Training and Development’.

What I look for in AAPNZ Award applications

Earlier this year I was honoured to be asked to judge the Administration Professional of the Year Awards at the AAPNZ conference in Christchurch. It was a real privilege to get to know the three finalists and to learn about their journeys. What talented women!

With so many amazing applicants, whose stories I was fascinated to read, it was hard enough to get down to just three finalists, so imagine the difficulties in choosing the winner.

What made Rebeka Adamson stand out in my eyes was that her passion for the profession really shone through, she was extremely well prepared, and she was very clear on where she was headed in her career.

Since July I have been thinking about what advice I would give to other administration professionals looking to enter next year’s Awards. What would help them stand out and possibly get to the next stage? Here are my top five tips:

  1. Let your personality and passions shine through in your application and in the interview
  2. Don’t be shy to talk about yourself and what you have achieved (please give examples)
  3. Talk about yourself and your role rather than about your organisation
  4. Be clear about what your goals are, how you plan to achieve them and how winning the Award can help you do that
  5. Make sure you follow the format and instructions given in the application form

 

I strongly encourage all Administration professionals in New Zealand to consider entering the 2016 Awards. This is your chance to step out from “behind the scenes” and share your story and your experiences with your peers. Don’t be daunted by the process – I promise you that you will not regret entering. We need to celebrate the amazing diversity of roles, skills, and career opportunities that are available to administration professionals and continue to raise the profile of the profession. Your stories should be heard. Your contributions recognised. Imagine how amazing it would feel to win!

 

If you can answer yes to the following three questions, then you should apply.

  • Would you like to take stock of how far you have come in your career?
  • Would you like your boss put down in writing just how outstanding you are?
  • Would you like to be recognised within your profession?

 

These are just three of the many reasons cited by previous applicants as to why they find it so rewarding to put themselves forward for this award. Whether you win or not, everyone I’ve spoken to agrees that it is hugely beneficial and eye-opening to go through the process. It builds their confidence, allows them to reflect on their accomplishments, and makes them consider what’s next in their role or career.

I have met some absolutely inspiring administration professionals over the last decade, both through AAPNZ and through my work on training courses and events for EA/PAs through Bright*Star and Conferenz. What these women have achieved, the responsibilities and huge workloads they seem to carry with such grace, it really does humble you. What then surprises me is that almost every single one of them feel that they don’t have what it takes to be considered for the AAPNZ award. Digging a bit deeper, what I’ve found is that the main two things holding them back are:

  • They don’t feel confident enough to put themselves forward
  • The prospect of having to do a short speech in front of their peers terrifies them

 

I understand where they are coming from. I have struggled with those two areas myself but in the end found that the only way to overcome my fears was to tackle them head-on. Both are simply skills that can be learned. Once you pick up a few techniques and start practising on a regular basis, the fear goes away. Personally, I joined Toastmasters and went through an assertiveness training programme. There are many options available to you so if you start now you will be ready for when nominations open for the 2016 AAPNZ Awards. If you want any advice on options, I would be more than happy to help you. Contact me directly on 099123610 or lone@brightstar.co.nz

 

How do you solve a problem like…a technical professional

If I am trying to get the bearing off an axle and have a bearing puller it only takes me a few minutes.  If I don’t have a bearing puller it can take me all day (with lots of cursing on the way).  It is all about having the right tools. 
 
Over the past 40 years I have worked closely with technical managers who are looking to improve the way their teams operate or are struggling to handle a challenging performance problem.  In many cases the results fall short simply because the manager didn’t have the right tools. 
 
People Management Skills for Technical Professionals is designed to provide tools for managing behaviour and dealing with issues.  It explains the psychology of why people behave the way they do and provides practical actions that can help a manager to achieve maximum results for the least amount of effort.  As one manager commented “Most courses I have been on tell me what I should be doing but this is the first one that helped me to understand why and taught me how to do it.”
 
(And don’t ask me how I know about getting bearings off axles – without a bearing puller!)

Top qualities of great leaders: create your leadership blend

 

Like with the best coffees, you can blend a mix of leadership skills and attitudes to achieve your desired taste.    

Make a list of people you admire. Chances are they have some traits in common such as charisma, vision, passion, self-confidence, authenticity and ability to engage others.

What do you value in a leader?

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What leadership skills would you like to master? 

To create your own leadership blend, join our upcoming training courses facilitated by top trainers .

Build your vision with our popular Strategic Thinking and Planning course and learn how to engage with Difficult People and Different Personalities. Improve your Assertiveness & Self Confidence at Work and strengthen your influence by learning the key techniques of Influential Leaders.

See our full range of courses for professional development in management to upgrade your skills and succeed in your role.