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Is it Time to Re-invent Yourself as a Woman in Leadership?

  Jul 31, 2013

By Patricia Murugami, Vice Dean- Executive Talent Development.

There is nothing more certain like change and more than ever re-inventing ourselves as women in leadership is critical. Charles Handy during a visit to Strathmore Business School spoke eloquently and deeply about the Sigmoid curve and how to constantly review where you are both personally and professionally on this curve with respect to what you determine to be success compared to time. Charles Handy reiterated that the best time to begin a new sigmoid curve is before you get to the peak of the success on your current curve. Do you know where you are on your current sigmoid curve?

Know, believe and fulfill your purpose: Many writers have shared their insights on developing your purpose and mission statement, others call it finding your vocation. For a woman in leadership, taking the time to discover and decipher what her purpose on earth is and how to fulfill that purpose is a fundamental step of leadership.

Keep close to your family: Beyond being a woman in leadership, our first role is usually at the home front where we never retire or resign. Build your skills in marriage, parenting, home- making and enjoy the ripple effect. My experience has been that when a woman’s personal and home life is fulfilling, she has a higher ability to transfer positive leadership experiences to her professional sphere.

Develop a strong bond with few dependable travelling companions: Every woman needs a few trusted friends to travel through life with. My friend calls them travelling companions. These are friends who know you as you really are, before and during successful times and when life is not as bright as you would like it to be. Focus on strengthening these friendships and keep these relationships in good condition. Do not neglect your travelling companions albeit how busy life may be, you need them as they are your pillar, mirror and support now & in the future.

Know your strengths & talents & nurture them: You can do this by achieving a consistent sense of well- being in the five areas of your life’s health: physical, spiritual, emotional, mental and financial.

Focus on your priorities ruthlessly by ensuring your commitments match your convictions: One simple way of auditing if you are being consistently pursuing your priorities is to review a time log of the last week and see if how you spent your time is matching your convictions.

Develop and apply the critical leadership behaviors: According to a McKinsey research entitled Women Matter 2, global CEOs defined 4 leadership behaviors as important for future corporate performance. The research panel further assessed male and female leadership styles to determine which gender applied these behaviors more frequently. The 4 leadership behaviors are Intellectual stimulation, inspiration, participative decision making, clarifying expectations and rewards. The research results demonstrated that women apply three of these four leadership behaviors more frequently than men. How would you as a woman in leadership assess your application of these behaviors over the last 6 months?

Be outstanding. Be a finisher: Follow through each project you begin. Success is achieved when we complete tasks, even if we have lost enthusiasm; it is a test of diligence and fortitude to finish and to finish well.

Be disciplined & achieve unity of life: This is the ability to be consistent in all spheres of life. What many may call the ability to walk your talk; mean what you say & say what you mean. As a woman in leadership, we are called to be many roles to many people including being a wife, mother, sister, friend and it is critical for authentic success that our values are lived across the different spheres of life. This requires the habits of excellence of wisdom, discipline and sincerity.

Be a role model. Follow a role model: The leadership journey can be a lonely journey and women in leadership need to tread carefully. What better way than with the wise insights from a role model or mentor. True success is normally achieved with the insights of others along the way. Be a role model to a younger woman who has potential for leadership. Our natural nurturing ability should show itself in how many effective leaders we develop during our time in leadership as this is the true test of leadership.

Invest in a coach in the area of your life that needs incisive assessment, focus and accountability to achieve progress: Manage your career proactively through the winds and waves by speaking regularly and with humility to your coach.

Influence more: In the much acclaimed book, Lean in by Sheryl Sandberg she speaks clearly about being bold to speak up and contribute to leadership discussions and positions. Do you serve on a board? Whether it is a community board, voluntary board or corporate board, serve more. Truly transformational leadership is truly being of service. Kenya is at a stage where professionally effective women are being encouraged to lean in and lead more on boards, in both the public sector and non- profit spheres. What do you aim to do to influence more?

Harness your social capital and sharpen your social intelligence: Sustainable relationships begin with rapport, develop with trustworthiness and end due to a lack of credibility. Assess your networks and professional relationships and define where you need to put more effort to be more credible and which relationships need to be weeded out.

Manage your digital presence: Review how your digital presence is working for your personal brand or if it is working against your intended personal brand. Review if you are a slave to the digital media or if you are able to master it and shape its impact to work for you positively.

Become more emotionally mature: Nothing brings a woman in leadership down as when her negative emotions run amok. Invest in developing emotional intelligence. Learn from the past, by reflecting and investing in your future differently. Travel light in terms of emotional baggage. This requires resilience, humility, courage and prudence.

Be feminine: Don’t be masculine, we were created as women and as women we should behave. Bring that long term and refreshingly different perspective to each leadership role you are in. Be modestly elegant in dressing & refined in behavior.

Accept yourself but stretch yourself. Seek & reflect on feedback. Renew your energies often. Plan your future & your succession. Plan your next sigmoid curve. Keep learning, keep asking, keep reflecting & your chances of having a truly transformational leadership style are higher. Remember re-inventing yourself is all about developing your character, based on virtues.

Women in Leadership, isn’t it time you re-invented yourselves?

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