Strengths Optimisation: The Female Leader’s Secret Weapon

This may come as a surprise to some of you, but men and women are different. Aside from the obvious physical differences, they experience change, challenge and leadership differently in their careers as well. What is surprising is that women perceive their leadership successes differently than men. One study published in the Journal of Applied Psychology found that when self-evaluation and peer evaluation is considered, men and women do not differ in their perceived effectiveness as leaders. Yet, when peer evaluations were considered by themselves, women were perceived as more effective leaders than men. And when self-evaluations were considered by themselves, men rated their effectiveness significantly higher than women. In other words, the formula for success for women in business is vastly different than it is for men not because of the way others feel about women in leadership positions, but because of the way women feel about themselves.

Know Your Strengths and Use Them

One of the first steps to achieving success in business is for a woman to know her strengths and then to leverage them to achieve career success. Women are sometimes reluctant to play to their strengths for fear of appearing selfish or overbearing. In reality, playing to their strengths breeds job satisfaction which leads to high levels of performance which naturally yields career advancement. Spend time on a regular basis investing in self-discovery to uncover new talents and develop established skills. Then put them to use in your job!

Develop a Support Network

One of the most important success strategies is developing and maintaining relationships with other people who have the potential to provide advice or career assistance. While many women can be reluctant to network with other people, preferring instead to rely on their own merits and accomplishments to achieve a goal, having supportive and successful female mentors and coaches goes beyond getting a leg up on the competition when it comes time for promotion. If you experience a career challenge, it is likely they have travelled the road before and can guide you towards a successful outcome. Having a trusted voice of experience can help you reframe your perspective so it is rooted in truth rather than perception. Best of all, having a network of trusted colleagues helps you feel supported in your leadership efforts, especially when the going gets tough.

Dare to be Different

Rather than imitating someone else’s leadership styles, patterns of speech or communication habits, embrace who you are. Your strengths, your talents, your abilities and your experience will contribute something great to your organisation that no one else can. If you are more comfortable offering in-person feedback, offer in-person feedback to those you lead. If you are a consensus builder when making a decision, seek input from those you lead before proceeding with a new policy or initiative. Regardless of the situation, be unfailingly true to yourself. Ultimately, your uniqueness can be your greatest strength.

Be Open to Feedback

Accepting constructive feedback is one of the best ways to gauge your own performance. Yet it is also one of the most challenging parts of leadership, particularly for women. Traditionally, women internalize constructive criticism as a sign of their own personal failure. Rather than accepting it as a way to grow, they can turn inward and react with fear, anger or defensiveness. The reality is, feedback does not mean you are failing, it is an opportunity to grow, learn and be exceptional. Whether it is a 360 degree review from subordinates, peers and supervisors or a conversation in the hallway with a colleague, seek out feedback from those who wish to see you improve. Then, find ways to incorporate it into your career. Ultimately, those who are open to and accept feedback from others will achieve greater levels of success than those who choose to ignore it.

  • Shanelle Moloney is the Managing Director of Moloney Consulting. Shanelle has over 20 years’ HR experience, 15 of which have been serving on senior leadership teams in Australian and Asia Pacific businesses across a range of industries. Shanelle is passionate about the recognition of leadership as a learned skill that requires the right resource investment, and has spent much of her career specialising in this area. Connect with Shanelle on LinkedIn.