Post by Jane K. Stimmler, contributing Women On Business writer
Developing an effective, powerful leadership style is often tough for women. In some cases, we may be in a situation where we have few female role models to observe, or perhaps we have not had the professional development opportunities to help us develop as leaders. However, once women develop a comfort level with using their skills in leadership, they often excel as leaders who have many unique strengths and qualities. Being a great leader is often a result of a combination of elements – some of which are obvious, others not so much.
In Breaking Into the Boys’ Club 2009, we include ten qualities that we see as vital to a strong leader. I’ll cover the first five in this week’s blog, and finish the list next week.
Top Leadership Qualities
1. Tune In to Others
Before you hold a meeting or address a group, consider everyone’s point of view and what they may be thinking about the agenda or subject matter. Be sensitive to issues or events which may influence their feelings. Instead of simply steamrolling through your agenda – show that you are collaborative by directly addressing their issues and concerns, asking clarifying questions, and actively listening to their thoughts.
2. Be Trustworthy
Engender trust by doing what you say you’re going to do, removing yourself from the petty squabbles, staying above the fray and being genuine. Without trust, those around you will not have confidence in you as a leader. Factors which lead to a lack of trust for a leader include gossiping, backstabbing, revealing confidences and badmouthing people. If you want to be a leader, act like one.
3. Stay Open Minded
Keep your personal biases in check so that you are open to hearing others when they voice their thoughts and opinions. A leader is someone who is willing to hear everyone out and only after considering the viewpoints of others, to make a fair decision. To do this, stay open minded and flexible, and use your listening skills when others speak.
4. Be Decisive
After a reasonable amount of debate on a subject, it’s time to weigh in with your decision. If, after hearing the views of others, you are still uncertain about what to do, you run the risk of being seen as ineffective. Or, if you keep waffling, based on the persuasive powers of the last person in your office, you’ll be viewed as indecisive. A leader has the difficult task of listening, assimilating the information and then making her best judgment.
True leaders are effective communicators in good times as well as bad. Even if you don’t have all the answers, or there’s bad news to report, it is imperative to maintain consistent communication with employees. People need to hear from their leaders, especially in times of crisis. If you don’t have an answer, commit to finding out and getting back to the person when you do.
How does your leadership stack up in terms of these qualities? Do any surprise you? Next week’s blog will have the final five of the top leadership qualities.