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Four important lessons inspiring female leaders teach us
Although the likes of #metoo has done much to address gender inequality in the workplace and beyond, the reality is that female senior leaders still do not equal their male counterparts in numbers. And yet, curiously, many of the qualities we find to be important in a leader are traits commonly associated with women.
A few years ago the UK communication agency WPP asked 32,000 people in 13 different countries to rate 125 leadership qualities, and to divide them into male, female or neutral. It turned out that the top 10 were almost all traits that the same poll identified as being “female traits,” such as flexibility, forward-thinking, patience and cooperation.
What has changed is that more women than ever are offering inspiring examples of how to lead, helping to ensure that the leadership of tomorrow is more equally pitched between the genders. Here are some inspiring examples of today’s female leadership:
1. The future depends on what you do today
Three of Iceland’s major banks went bankrupt during the financial crisis of 2008, leaving the island with debts more than 10 times the size of its GNP. Why? Because the CEOs of these banks were willing to take enormous risks, without thinking of the possible consequences in the future. All to make a quick buck. Halla Tómasdóttir, the founder of a bank called Audor, chose a more sustainable strategy. As she was thinking not just of today, but also of the future, advocated risk-awareness rather than pure risk-taking in investments.
2. You are stronger together
As Chief Operating Officer at Facebook, Sheryl Sandberg knows that your employees are your greatest asset. The better you play to their strengths, the stronger your team will be. This is the advice to leaders who want people just to do what they are told, instead of collaborating with them to get the best result: “At Facebook we try to make jobs fit around people rather than make people fit around jobs. We focus on what people's natural strengths are and spend our management time trying to find ways for them to use those strengths every day.”
3. Patience is a virtue
The Forbes list of richest self-made women is on just many of the lists where she ranks on top: Oprah Winfrey. She is convinced that she didn´t reach that position only because of her talent, but also with endless patience and perseverance: “Do the one thing you think you cannot do. Fail at it. Try again. Do better the second time. The only people who never tumble are those who never tried.”
4. Stay loyal to yourself
Loyalty to your colleagues, friends and family is great good, but is equally important to stay loyal to yourself. It’s all too easy to abandon your own beliefs, when you are under pressure to make a decision. Anne Sweeney, member of the Netflix board of directors, warns us not do that: “Define success on your own terms, achieve it by your own rules, and build a life you’re proud to live.”