A woman who desires to move up the ladder must roll up her sleeves and earn her space, not on the basis of gender competition or sexy looks but on the basis of competence and the value she brings to the table. She pierces the glass ceiling by working as if the ceiling didn’t exist. Her rise must not be a product of influence-peddling but should happen through evidenced capacity. She proves her point most eloquently by conducting herself as one who has no point to prove by rolling up her sleeves and getting her hands dirty if need be, to get a job done! She has to demonstrate competence in relational ethics, decision-making, timely execution of assignments, ability to communicate effectively, resource management and other areas of executive engagement. To prove her point, she needs to first prove her mettle.
Grumbling and whining over not being noticed or recognized because of gender is not going to deliver leadership to you. Even if your tantrums and emotional blackmail get you a leadership position, your irritating disposition will guarantee your early exit from it.
To navigate the complex corporate scenarios and shatter the glass ceiling, I have some advice for the female leader that seeks to effectively navigate the complexities in her career path.
Operate as if you recognize that the world owes you nothing beyond a harvest of whatever you sow into it! Develop your skills and leave nobody in doubt about your capacity for contribution. Even when a promotion isn’t at stake, demonstrate leadership. Be willing to take calculated risks and embrace challenges. Seek new opportunities to demonstrate your capacity and value to the organization. Embrace responsibility. Take on some tasks where you notice a gap that your competence can handle, especially when no one seems to be willing to step up to the plate. Let a challenge become your opportunity. Make yourself a go-to person, an invaluable link in the corporate chain. Let your contribution become the platform for your recognition. Complaining and contribution will both get you noticed, the former for sanction and the latter for recognition!
People are an essential part of anyone’s success story. People with sterling emotional intelligence will move faster on the corporate ladder than those who have a people-skills deficiency. Esteem everyone on your team as an important integral part of the success dynamics. Whatever height you attain on the corporate ladder, never look down on anyone. You never know who may help you in your climb! No matter how busy you are, never be too busy to meaningfully invest in connections, both personally and professionally. Build a strong and purposeful network to enhance your net worth. Never forget to create time for activities with the most significant people in your life. The female leader is a career person on her job, but she may also be a sibling, wife and or mother at home. Never be so obsessed with work that you lose your immediate constituency, your family. When the work leaves you or you leave the work as will eventually happen, your family may be all that you have left!
Leadership is a task, a trust and a test, not a popularity contest. So, the female leader must be decisive and firm where the need arises even at the risk of being unpopular. Those who walk a narrow path must master the discipline of focus and tenacity. In being firm however, learn to be charitable to all, especially to those who do not share your position. Those who fault your position should never be able to fault the sincerity of your intention. In decision-making, motives are far more important than exactitude. Great leadership is not a perfectionist drive. What this means is that when it is obvious that her position is wrong, the female leader should not hesitate to eat humble pie and admit her fallibility while demonstrating a willingness to bow to superior argument. Holding on to a flawed position as some female leaders I have come across are wont to do is a needless display of arrogance and lends credence to the argument that women hardly have the emotional competence required for effective leadership.
Furthermore, the female leader must be a visionary whose passion for a destination is contagious. Everyone loves a leader who inspires them to possibilities they hitherto thought were unattainable. To do this, she must learn to master her emotions and draw the line between her personal, domestic challenges and her official function with its attendant relational ethos.
A significant investment on personal development and growth is a necessity for the female leader who seeks to gain significant traction in leadership. Become an avid learner. Continuous learning is the secret of outstanding leadership. Be known more for the ability to give yourself a mind make-over than a facial make-over. The latter should complement the former, not vice-versa. Create and constantly immerse yourself and those you lead in learning opportunities. Nobody has the monopoly of wisdom, so be willing to learn and appropriate knowledge from others.
Good mentors shorten the distance between you and your goals. This is because, through your relationship with them, you learn what took them several years to master in a fraction of the time it took them. Whatever path you seek to travel, someone has been through that path before and mastered the route. The Law of Leverage operates on the premise that your present dream or aspiration is already someone’s reality. So you can leverage on their experience to make yours less disconcerting. In the wisdom of a sage, “If I can see farther than my peers, it because I have stood on the shoulders of giants. A female leader must therefore seek out mentors, whether female or male, who speak the language of her destination rather than the language of her current frustration. Mentors are less interested in hearing you whine as they are in helping you win! So, be purposeful in seeking your mentors. They will not do the seeking, so guillotine your pride and go after them. They got what you seek in them at a price. So you too must pay the price of tenacity and focus. Find mentors who can act as your personal “board of directors” to serve as your sounding board and support system. You don’t qualify for leadership if you yourself are unwilling to be led!
Finally, be yourself. Authenticity is a hallmark of great leadership. The female leader must be confident and exude a healthy self-esteem. Neither an inferiority nor a superiority complex would do you any significant good as a leader. Discover what style works best for you and tailor your leadership to it. Be unambiguous about your core values as well as your spiritual, deep-seated convictions and know where to draw the line between compromise and flexibility. Seek organizations and roles that ally with those ideals and values with a clear understanding of whatever choices and trade-offs you are willing to make.
Stop whining about the glass ceiling. The world doesn’t owe you space you cannot fill. Make your case by making the difference! It’s in you!
Remember, the sky is not your limit, God is!