Hello and welcome to the fourth article of our mini-series. In this piece we will be discussing what being a good leader means to our members, we will touch upon specific traits and support groups that can help young professionals succeed.
When we asked our members whether there are any specific qualities that good leaders tend to possess and whether woman and men differ in their leadership styles, all members mentioned the myth about female leaders needing to be aggressive to succeed. Female leaders might need to have ‘men-like traits’ if they want to succeed in an environment where these characteristics are engrained as “good leadership” in the corporate culture. They agreed that the best leader, irrespective of their chromosomes, is someone that is inclusive, honest, adaptable and someone with great communications skills that makes sure everyone around feels part of something bigger.
A great leader is someone that, maintains healthy coping styles considering difficulties, such as attempting to improve from negative outcomes. A good leader is someone that shares the credit for positive achievement with the team and uses the opportunity to learn from the recent win. In the eyes of a young professional, the best trait of a leader is not tiptoeing around criticism but telling you what you need to work on to excel. Someone who, despite being your boss can also be a mentor, is not constantly concerned with KPIs but wants to make sure their employees grow professionally and excel in what they do. When employees enjoy their job and want to do well, instinctively the company KPIs are achieved.
Multiple articles suggest that there are different characteristics between men and women’s leadership styles and not only does this pigeonhole women, but it also has a similar effect on men. Often, we identify men as strict figures of authority in the workplace, who push people to achieve goals, but there are a number of men in senior positions who are also compassionate, empathetic and empower their team to achieve the best.
When the HBA members were asked about skills and experiences that are essential to successful careers they agreed that there is no specific set of skills an employee must have. They believed that everything is relative and dependent on career and personal ambitions. They suggested that young professionals should identify their career goals and research individuals on LinkedIn who have achieved similar goals. Reach out to them and invite them out for a coffee and a chat post-lockdown. Take opportunities and risks, and remember, it is just as important to understand what you do not like. Furthermore, it is also equally important to develop softer skills, which is something the HBA membership can support on.
The HBA helps our members nurture their self-confidence, resilience and lead with gravitas. These are not only skills that young professionals can work on but also more mature women. Take the opportunity to speak to people and network so that you can brainstorm on how you can excel. As young professionals, we often get asked where we see ourselves in five years, and although I do have ideas of where I would like to be in the future, I often worry about how to get there. I frequently worry whether one step in the wrong direction is going to affect my career. I often need to be reminded, by my support group, that you can learn from every experience and even if the outcome is not the one you expected, you should pull yourself together and use the experience to best inform the next move you will make.
Support networks are also important to achieve career success, this can be in the form of mentors but can also include friends, family members and even colleagues. These people are normally soundboards that can give you their own perspective of the situation. Your mentor(s) should be someone that you trust, that does not judge you but also someone who can be honest and can provide constructive input. This support person can be someone who you’ve met through work, but could also be someone you got to know thanks to networking events. It was clear, from interviewing members for this series, that they believe how crucial the social capital gained through networking this is for career progression, to build strong relationships, learn about different perspectives, and absorb new information. Before COVID-19, breakfast and dinner meetings would need to have been organised around childcare (or the opposite) but the pandemic has somewhat levelled the playing field with meetings taking place online and limited time would need to be spent travelling from your make-do office to your living room and back.
To conclude, although the definition of leadership is becoming more gender-inclusive, we still face a big problem with a lack of women in management positions and the resulting general perception of what leadership means. A recent Forbes article highlighted that, in 279 companies, with 13 million employees, women represent only 23 percent of c-suite occupants. So, what can companies and society do to improve these percentages and reduce the stigma around women leaders? Send us your opinions and join us in discussing gender parity initiatives in the workplace and society in our next article.