How Women Leaders Can Rise Above and Overcome Leadership Hurdles
It’s no secret that the gender gap is an ongoing issue in the corporate world. And according to a study by Linkage, a global leadership development firm, this gap is even more apparent from the manager level and up.
There’s been a lot of talk about societal biases and the system working against women’s advancement, but there are also roadblocks set up by women themselves. These internalized obstacles may be challenging to dismantle, but Jennifer McCollum, Linkage CEO, offers some helpful advice for women leaders who may be blocking their own advancement. From addressing the inner critic to articulating one’s goals, there are plenty of ways women can get over the hurdles that they consciously or subconsciously built to block themselves from ascending as business leaders.
ADDRESSING THE HARSH INNER CRITIC
Sometimes, there’s no harsher voice than the one in our head whispering to us that it’s best to keep our heads down and not ask for that promotion. According to McCollum, this inner critic can prevent women leaders from taking action.
This is why it’s important to listen to that inner critic but also give yourself credit for your capabilities and achievements. You need to be honest with yourself to be able to identify whether what you’re saying to yourself is true or if it’s just internal bias springing into action.
BEING CLEAR WITH YOUR GOALS
McCollum emphasizes the importance of articulating your answer to the question, “What do you want?” But in her experience, many women tend to answer this in terms of their relationships with other people. It’s time women stop struggling to think of their own sake when answering this important question. Doing so can help them become more purposeful when making career and life decisions.
That’s not to say answers like “See my teammates grow” or “I want my kids to be happy” are terrible answers. They are. But they don’t answer the “you” part of the question. Remember, filling your own cup first isn’t a bad thing. In fact, it’s necessary if you want to help others around you as well.
BEING COMFORTABLE WITH ASKING
There’s a famous quote attributed to author Nora Roberts that says, “If you don’t ask, the answer is always no.” And that’s also true when it comes to advancing your career. People are not mind readers, but simply asking to be included in a meeting or assigned to a project that you’re confident in can help signal to others that you’re able and willing to take on leadership roles.
Even when things don’t go your way, there’s always something to learn from rejection. You can learn some skills you need to sharpen for the next time, or you could be considered for future assignments. McCollum also says that the more we practice asking and voicing our wants, the more we get to “learn how to navigate future asks.”
BEING COMFORTABLE WITH SAYING “NO”
Many women struggle to ask for what they want, and there are also a lot who find it challenging to say no, including in the workplace. If you’re having difficulty turning down requests, then you may have had experiences where you ended up having too much on your plate. Working hard is important, but working smarter is much more sustainable.
To become effective leaders, women must also learn to set boundaries and say no. They should know how to delegate work and let others perform their roles. Effective delegation can help women leaders focus on more high-level tasks and avoid time-consuming, routine duties.
THE IMPORTANCE OF OVERCOMING LEADERSHIP HURDLES FOR WOMEN LEADERS
Women who overcome obstacles and fully embrace their leadership roles don’t just advance their own careers. They can potentially effect meaningful change in their organization and, in some ways, even their industry.
In an ideal world, workers who do their job well are noticed and rewarded by their employers. But that’s not the world we live in. Yes, doing your job and doing it well is the most fundamental component of being a good employee. Still, you’ve also got to learn how to communicate your achievements, develop your network, and clarify your interest in becoming a leader.
CREATING A MORE DIVERSE WORKPLACE
Imagine if women never spoke up in the workplace. All business decisions would ultimately be made by men, who only represent half the population. Business leadership must be representative of the people they serve. This way, their decisions can be better informed and even more creative.
Having women leaders sit at the table where important business decisions are being made can help foster a culture that values inclusion and diversity. They can provide a different perspective to the conversation, which can lead to better outcomes. Additionally, they can be the voice that women so badly need in order to level the playing field and close gender gaps.
INSPIRING THE NEXT GENERATION
Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, women leaders can inspire and mentor the younger generations of women that will come after them. Aspiring female leaders will have the privilege of being mentored by women who have worked day in and day out to make sure all genders are given equal opportunities. They can lead by example and provide real-life advice on tackling leadership obstacles because they, too, have had the same experience. This makes sure that while they may be the first woman director/CEO/chairperson of the company, they most certainly will not be the last.
Whether in an office environment or a remote team setup, every woman can be a leader. And as cliche as it may sound, it all starts with women believing in themselves—their own potential, skills, and successes.
The road to a truly diverse and inclusive business world may be rough, but women leaders can help pave the way by facing their challenges. With their confidence and skills, women can take their seats at the table and help lift other women up as well.