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OK, WE GET IT …

Female LeadersLast night I had the pleasure of having dinner with an old friend and coachee.

She regaled me with hilarious tales of her latest (female) boss, and reminded me how important it is for leaders to be aware of a couple of things

Ladies, you are not men. You do not need to put ‘it’ on the table. Even, and especially, if you are in the minority, working alongside a bunch of men, you do not need to act like them. If you do, your staff will laugh at you. Period. You look like an ass.

Harvard Business Review’s September 2013 edition, leads with the headline “ Emotional, Bossy, Too Nice – the biases that still hold female leaders back”

Other than the word “emotional”, which does rankle a bit (probably because there’s an element of truth) in it, the other two words can be applied to all leaders.

I’m currently coaching a phenomenal young leader. He made partner at a really young age, and is leading a global team. He’s smart, articulate, considered – did I say smart ?  As part of my Executive Coaching Programmes, I request key stakeholder feedback – this is what one of his direct reports had to say : “ He likes to be the boss. That is fine. But he is already the boss”.

We get that you have arrived. Everyone can see you are the boss. Stop showing off and trying to prove it.

All it shows us, and what both examples have in common, is a lack of self-confidence. Ladies (and guys), please remember that when viewed from the outside, all others can do is guess the motives for your behavior.

At best they may guess that you’re trying to prove yourself. At worst, they may guess that you’re in over your head; that you lack confidence and thus need to throw your weight around to ‘stamp your authority’ on those whom you don’t really know how to lead.

And because they don’t really know what the truth is, they’ll test you until they get you or until you get real.

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READY TO CHANGE YOUR MIND?

How much thought do you give to the way you think ?  Have you always thought the same way, or has your thinking changed as you have changed ?

I coach a large number of leaders; a lot of them are what I call ‘new’ leaders : people who are new to a leadership position, new to a business, new to a country, or new to a department within an existing organisation.

They often come to coaching with some fear. They’re not 100% confident in their skills, they know they need to cement vital relationships quickly, they need to achieve some ‘quick wins’ and vitally, they may not yet have learnt the difference between the skill sets of managing and leading.

Which brings me back to thinking about the way we think …

You see leaders and managers need different thinking styles. Now, neither role is ‘better’, and both roles can be successfully coached, but managers tend to need meaning-based coaching which results in optimal performance (because the role is about the ‘doing’) and leaders perform at their peak when they experience transformational coaching. Because a lot of leadership is about Being.

And when leaders are being genuine, creative, collaborative, fair, and congruent, there is every possibility that people will follow them.

What distinguishes a leader from a manager is the ability to envision a new future and empower those around them to turn it into reality. I worked for a boss like that over 15 years ago. She empowered an entire team of women to believe in themselves and their ability, and rewarded us handsomely when we lived up to her expectations. She did her job so well that we ran her company for her. She set the vision, communicated it to us. And we did the rest. She empowered us so well that she was my last boss. Brava !

 

Leadership is the ability to do big picture thinking. It’s necessary to be able to delve into the detail when you are managing a project, but when you need to conceive a project, the skill you need is vision and creativity. Leaders break new ground because they have developed the ability to think globally; to go places no one has been before. They do not follow established procedures but look for new ways of doing things. Visionaries ‘envision’ a different way. That’s an important word for leaders – difference. It’s about looking for the gaps, not the similarities that will give them a competitive advantage.

Great leaders have developed the skill of reflection. They do not necessarily plunge straight into action but will think about the challenge, trying on different angles, different solutions until they know which way they want to proceed.

 

And they’re ok to be wrong. They listen to their inner voice and trust it because they trust themselves. If they are wrong, they use the feedback to correct the course. – without taking it personally. They do not need permission or buy-in from anyone to know what is right for them. Leaders understand that there is only one way of winning, and that is to control their own mind and the way they think and act. They know that they certainly cannot control anyone or anything else.

So what does all of this have to do with coaching ? Simple. A great coach can help you develop flexibility of thought. He or she can help you change the way you think.

I recently coached a senior executive who believed she had to prove her worth by constantly being busy, running (yes running !) around the office, and generally growing impatient with those that weren’t ‘up to her speed’. Empowering ? Absolutely not. She was initially given feedback that she was ‘tough’ which she took as a compliment, but in effect she was scared. So scared that she did more and more and made her staff feel like what they did counted less and less. Through coaching she realized that her job was no longer ‘to do the technical work’, but to BE a leader. The result is a calm, more productive team who feel like their leader is on their side and no longer in competition with them, but is there to support them.

And in turn, she has the breathing space to reflect, relook, envision, strategise and empower. And as a result, revenue is up 30% this quarter. Not bad in these times, and all because she decided to change her mind.

Let me know when YOU are ready – janine.daniels@lead.com.co

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