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’.

Are you tuned into your ‘X Factor’?

x factor

When you consider your behaviour at work, would you say you have a strong ‘executive presence’ or the ‘x factor’?  How would you rate yourself in terms of how you project a sense of authority, confidence, authenticity, and poise in your daily interactions?

One of the ways to assess your ‘x factor’ is to observe how often tuned into the present moment or preoccupied with future or past events.  Are you typically aware or unaware of what you’re feeling, seeing, hearing, smelling, tasting and intuiting?  As a leader, you do have ‘big picture’ responsibilities.  Future planning is often critical for success, but it shouldn’t be at the expense of your leadership presence.  Presence is that quality of being awake and aware sensorially in each moment.  Presence gives you a quality of aliveness and vitality which is magnetic and supports you in being more influential and effective in all your interactions.

With practice, you can develop your ‘x factor’ or ‘executive presence’. You can cultivate your sensory awareness in such a way that you exude a sense of vitality and energy.  With intentional practice, you will also begin to notice an increase in clarity, focus, improved memory, creativity and a greater ease in negotiating and resolving conflicts.

Here’s a simple exercise to begin cultivating your presence today as you go about your regular activities: At each of your meals and/or tea breaks (or whatever times are convenient for you to remember) , ask yourself, these sensorial questions:

What am I seeing now?  Notice around you colours, shapes, objects, people, etc.

What sounds am I hearing now?  Notice the whirr of a computer, traffic noises, telephone ringing, etc.

What do I feel now physically?  Notice the chair beneath you, the temperature of the room, your feet on the floor, your breath, heartbeat, etc.

What do you smell now?  Notice any smells around you, e.g. coffee, toothpaste, breath mint, food, etc.

What’s my intuition telling me now?  Notice what your ‘sixth sense’ is telling you. Do you have a sense of ‘rightness’ or ‘wrongness’ about a particular situation, agreement, plan, etc.?

As you continue this practice,  even for just a few times a day,  you may notice a sense of peace and clarity coming into your awareness more frequently. By activating your ‘presence’ or six senses,  you are developing your ‘x factor’, that power which transcends your rational, logical mind.

Leadership presence is not an inborn gift for everyone.   It can be cultivated through practising a set of learnable skills and habits.  If you’d like to dive deeper into developing your ‘x factor’ this year, I invite you to contact me to discuss the possibility of  designing a program for you or your team.  There are various options ranging from private coaching to group training to keynote presentations.

Here’s to your growth and development in 2016!

Written by Bright*Star Facilitator Sally Mabelle

If you’d like to develop your ‘leadership presence’, join Sally’s new Bright*Star course in 2016:

‘Building Your Executive Voice and Presence’

29th February or 19 August in Wellington or in Auckland on 11th May.

http://www.brightstar.co.nz/training/building-your-executive-voice-and-presence

Sally Mabelle, M.Ed, B.A hons, has 20+ years’ experience as a ‘Voice of Leadership’ specialist. She combines her professional background in Communication, Education, and Psychology with her extensive stage experience in her courses. She has honed essential skills in voice projection, emotional connection and physical presence and is an award-winning inspirational speaker.

Do You Have The Leadership Presence You’ll Need in 2016?

As you wind down, wrap up and reflect on your year, how have you fared in the intangible ‘x factor’ department?  In other words, how have you developed and expressed your  ‘leadership presence’?

Leadership presence is that quality of poise and perspective which supports you to be more awake, aware, and influential and includes a type of ‘stage presence’ and ‘voice of authority’ which allows you to command attention whenever you speak.  Psychological Science Journal  published a pioneering study this year on a key aspect of leadership presence: your voice.  The study found that when you feel more powerful,  your voice changes in predictable ways.   It becomes more dynamic in loudness, less variable in pitch and has more intensity.   This study supports the fact that you can dramatically improve your confidence, personal impact,  and influence through voice coaching.

Many business and political leaders are well aware of the benefits of presence and voice coaching.  Here’s a short video clip of Margaret Thatcher’s  voice ‘before’ and ‘after’ coaching – the difference in her authoritative presentation is dramatic.  https://www.awesomestories.com/asset/view/Margaret-Thatcher-Voice-Before-and-After-Lessons You can see that she slows down her speech and speaks with more articulation and definitiveness.  Leadership presence is not an inborn gift for most of us.   It is cultivated through coaching and involves a set of learnable skills.

If you’d like to develop your ‘leadership presence’, I invite you to join me on the new Bright*Star course in 2016:

‘Building Your Executive Voice and Presence’

29th February or 19 August in Wellington or in Auckland on 11th May.

http://www.brightstar.co.nz/training/building-your-executive-voice-and-presence

Blog written for Bright*Star Training by Sally Mabelle

Sally Mabelle, M.Ed, B.A hons, has 20+ years’ experience as a ‘Voice of Leadership’ specialist. She combines her professional background in Communication, Education, and Psychology with her extensive stage experience in her courses. She has honed essential skills in voice projection, emotional connection and physical presence and is an award-winning inspirational speaker.

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.