Articles // February 16,2021

Empowering Women into Leadership

By Sripriyaa Venkataraman & Venkataraman Subramanyan

The last twelve months has been FUN – what started off as an off-shoot of our Global Leadership program for women professionals, turned out into a series of workshops transforming hundreds of women professionals. It is amazing how many of them have formed multiple social networks to sustain the learnings and maintain the connections.

It is a shame that we have so few women in leadership positions – gender diversity is the most primitive form of diversity! If organizations must accelerate towards their vision, their only way is to seek out sources of inorganic growth. Inorganic growth is stimulated through innovation, which is sparked by the generation of new ideas. One of the easy ways of generating new ideas is to consciously include diversity into teams, and like I mention before, gender diversity is the easiest way to generate new ideas to grow the business.

Having worked with hundreds of women professionals, I am struck by the commonality of their conundrums:
⦁ How do I get over my fear of asking for something?
⦁ How do I engage in constructive politics?
⦁ How can I be a more authentic person?
⦁ How can I stop being so emotional?
⦁ Where do I get the time to take care of myself?

If you remotely connect to any of these questions, read on – it does not matter if you are a man or a woman.

First off is the fear of asking. We don’t ask because we fear rejection – more importantly, we fear the ultimate prison “what will that other person think of me?”. My request of you would be to change the mind set for asking –the only reason you are asking is for the other person to get better. Let me give you an example. I am blessed to be working with thousands of sales professionals across the globe every year – many of them suffer from the Prospecting Curse. This is a powerful mental force that prevents them from reaching out to new customers and gets them side-lined into other non-productive activities. If only they changed their mind-set to be “the only reason I am calling them is for them to get better as a business” – sounds very simple, but very rarely put into practice. Remember, success happens twice – once in your brain, and the second in reality.

Moving next to politics – I am amazed how many people have a negative connation of politics and blanket their minds to any form of influence or persuasion to achieve their meaningful goals. Politics is the world’s third oldest profession, often confused with the first! People often confuse politics with scheming, manipulation or skulduggery. We need to reset that perception to think of politics as a process to reach your meaningful goals. Having worked with hundreds of leaders as an Executive Coach, I am amazed how many of them still seem to lean on merit to sustain their career aspirations – my favourite quote to them is “The gap between merit and success is constructive politics, executive presence and proactive networking”. Therefore, my request of you is to accept politics as a way of life and start building a conscious plan to increase your power and influence through your internal and external networks, supplemented by your knowledge and credibility. As you think about politics, think about the depth of your network using the one-third principle – does your network cover 1/3rd below you whom you serve, the 1/3rd who are your peers, and 1/3rd who are better than you? You know your answer – start focusing upward to build the network higher and better than you!!

Ah, authenticity – that missing ingredient in our busy, busy lives. May I request you to answer these 3 questions?

⦁ How many of you are authentic at work, but not at home?

⦁ How many of you are authentic at home, but not at work?

⦁ How many of you are authentic at work and home, but not to yourself?

It is a travesty that many of us lead inauthentic lives – we embrace the tyranny of the “or” and shun the possibilities of the “and”. Authenticity starts from within – how much have you built on your “self-trust?” – only when you have built the trust for yourself, can you expect others to trust you. Are you spending 15-20 minutes everyday meditating, to discover and align to your authentic self? Is your clarity begetting the next set of decisions around the priorities and polarities between work and life? Have you grown a backbone to say “No”, so that you can stay authentic?

Several women often tell me that they get very emotional, and that their emotions are often turned against them. Remember, that women aspiring for Leadership does not mean that they adopt masculine traits to ape their male counterparts – it is all about leveraging their inherent femininity to achieve more. We need to remember that as human beings, we decide emotionally, and then justify rationally. Women have an inherent advantage to connect emotionally and need to leverage that emotional connection to achieve more. In fact, emotions trumps reason in as much as intent trumps fluency. Therefore, please do direct your emotions outward into building strong, meaningful relationships that helps you accelerate your interpersonal goals.

The last conundrum is all about Life Balance – women must balance so many additional roles with greater finesse, that they do not have the time to take care of themselves. In many of our programs, sleep, health, “me-time” and self-development are the major causalities for our Women leaders. We leverage a worksheet developed by our partners, UBalancer, to assess the time spent on various roles over the past week, and what is always surprising is the opportunity time that exists in every women’s life – of a total of 168 hours in a week, most women are able to account for 150 or less, which provides them with 2- 3 hours every day that they can target consciously. We advocate role-blending and diversity of roles as suggestions to lead richer, more fulfilling lives.

If you have reached so far, you would have noticed that many of the aspects that we have covered are as relevant for men, as is for women. In fact, leadership is a common goal, and it is only how we leverage various perspectives to achieve those true goals of leadership, that separates us from others in the race.  Therefore, we encourage you to consider the physical, psychological, managerial, cultural, political and spiritual dimensions of leadership as you set out on your journey to discover your leadership potential? Thank you, Philippe Rosinski, for providing us the guiding light on these perspectives!

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