Four things every woman in leadership should know

Amy Yoder is president and CEO of Anuvia Plant Nutrients and an avid promoter of women in agriculture.

Women have made great strides in business, politics, technology and science. However, I have discovered that the assertion created by Sigmund Freud in 1925 that “women resist change, receive passively and add nothing of themselves”, affirmed a gender norm that still persists today.

There are just 44 female CEOs leading Fortune 500 companies. That’s a paltry 8.8% of some of the largest companies in the US. However, I believe that many of these women have something in common. Rather than model their leadership after their male counterparts, they have broken the mold and exploited what it means to be a female leader. From my perspective, women leaders harness the power of teams, tend to share credit, and are driven by both a sense of purpose and business results.

As a sixth-generation farmer, I always knew I would pursue a career in agriculture. In my program in college, I was one of the few women and quickly learned that being a woman, especially in those days, means being two, if not three times as good. Below are some key leadership lessons I’ve learned along the way that can help you stay true to yourself while working hard.

Share where you are from.

Too often successful female entrepreneurs and business leaders fail to share the story of their beginnings. What does it mean to “share your story?” Very few will care about your dog’s name, what you ate for breakfast, or your plans to play Pickleball this weekend. However, they do want to hear how you got to where you are in your career, what inspired you, lessons learned and hardships overcome.

Being vulnerable and sharing your history will make you more accessible, which is essential for leadership today. Telling your story, in all its ups and downs, adds a human element to your brand and is a compelling way to accelerate growth. Incorporate bits of yourself into social content, presentations, and everyday interactions at the office. By humanizing yourself, you can expand your reach, get in front of more people, and maybe even grow your business.

Do not accept the ‘double bind’. Recognize and accept your own leadership potential.

Successful leaders are typically perceived as analytical, competent, reliable, and confident. However, these characteristics are also often: used to describe men. As Morela Hernandez wrote“In corporate boardrooms, women often face setbacks or negative career consequences when they are unable to display both warmth and competence – gender-based societal expectations commonly referred to as the ‘double bind’.”

Don’t wait for your achievements or potential to be recognized. Map out your own path and actively make it happen with a balanced and thoughtful approach. If you are faced with the claim that you are too “uptight” or “bossy”, take a moment to think. Do you actively create or elevate conflict? Do you only take care of yourself, regardless of the cost to your teammates? Do you set unrealistic expectations or do you micromanage in such a way that progress is stifled? If so, consider using softer tactics.

But being genuinely assertive and respectful at the same time shows the qualities of a true leader. Try to correct stereotyped behavior where necessary. Change your own language and avoid using terms like “bossy” or “aggressive” regardless of who you speak to. You can’t control the stereotypes that employees bring to the organization, but you do have control over the company culture and how these stereotypes are handled.

Push your limits and learn from your mistakes and failures.

Making mistakes can be embarrassing and even costly. But mistakes are intrinsically linked to our successes. They remind us that we are human and keep us connected to what works and what doesn’t.

As a leader, you become responsible not only for your own mistakes, but also for those of your employees. This can be tricky, but it can also reveal blind spots and help deepen the company’s knowledge.

Self-doubt is a killer of ingenuity. Don’t get paralyzed by past mistakes. Rather lean in the fear of failure and still do the difficult.

Practice micro-mentorship with women around you.

One woman at the top may have power, but a group of women together has an impact. As a female leader, there are ways to empower the women around you to learn and grow within the company.

Start by assessing how you evaluate your employees. Research has found that men are often judged by potential, while women are judged by performance. While this can help level the playing field at the entry level, management and leadership positions include: still dominated by men. To promote gender equality, men and women should be assessed for promotions based on the same criteria.

While you may not have the resources to implement a full program, you can practice micro-mentorship to empower the women around you while unlocking professional development opportunities. By not only seeking advice from, but also seeking advice from trusted colleagues, you encourage the women around you to work together, not isolate. Business Council is the leading growth and networking organization for entrepreneurs and leaders. Am I eligible?

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