Creating a powerful, authoritative, influential personal brand in America is much trickier for women to create in business and in public life than it is for men; we’re a patriarchal society, of course it is. For women who are able to combine typical businessmen/executive traits with the passion, compassion, and charm that femininity allows, the sky is the limit. Why not fly?
I suggest fostering and developing the following characteristics in your career as a businesswoman. Though these examples cater more to the needs and obstacles of women in business and in the public sphere, their application is relevant to men as well.
- Women are excellent relationship builders. We’re naturally consultative, because we’re less afraid to depend on others, to seek help. “Men won’t ask for directions.” We will and we should. We’re also inclined to want to “fit in.” This natural desire for “acceptance”–“buy in” or validation in a business setting–can be leveraged when bouncing ideas off of other people. Seek critique; gain perspective from coworkers. Avoid sacrificing quality of outcomes in decision-making. This does not mean we must ask for tangible help at all times. A fresh viewpoint could simply broaden our perspective and then help focus our strategy moving forward. Then when we can use a hand, we shouldn’t hesitate to ask for it. To the people whose help is requested, communicate the value they’d personally add to the initiative.
- Recommended reading: The Fall of the Alphas, Dana Ardi
- Women are passionate. We are taught by society to express our feelings while men are typically held to a different expectation. Women must seek what lights our fires and enhances our feelings. We must let that energy burn. Passion is intuitive. Intrinsic urges lead us to the opportunities, ventures, careers, and projects we are most naturally suited for. We should not dismiss those urges. Avoid impulsivity, but if an internal nagging refuses to hush, listen to it. If a business or career opportunity you are impassioned about presents itself, quench your thirst. Go for it.
- Taylor Swift transitioned from (semi-twangy) country music to “popular” music. She follows her intuition despite criticism, and it serves her well. She has maintained, and arguably strengthened, her iconic status by “following her heart” in terms of musical production. She refuses to be bound to a genre. Follow her lead; follow your heart. Ignite the passion within you; create a life of fulfillment.
- Women are emotional. Mature women are emotionally intelligent. Being “sensitive” to our surroundings and to the feelings/perceptions of others is a gift. Manipulating people by taking advantage of their nature, their feelings, or their intelligence is karmically toxic. How many female Bernie Madoffs have we heard of? We women should strive to be the best at forwarding our initiatives and “causes,” but at the same time we must remain cognizant of never making avoidable choices that directly or indirectly harm others. Listen to the angel on your shoulder. Foster healthy organizational cultures. Be transparent in heated HR policy debates. Women, take the label of “ethical leaders” and run with it.
- Recommended reading: Lean In, Sheryl Sandberg
Charm and beauty
- Presence is one of the most powerful human forces. Ladies, let’s stop worrying about how opaque our tights/stockings are, and let’s start thinking about how we carry ourselves when walking into a room, interacting with others, or taking a stage. Keep attire professional, but if people can’t keep their eyes off of our bright smiles nor stay away from our bubbly personalities, it’s a blessing. I’m not saying to tout physical attributes and overshadow your wealth of knowledge, but do leverage presence! Keep your head up, your eyes wide, and your handshakes firm.
- Megyn Kelly, Fox News anchor
- Women need to stop wasting time and energy thinking about what other people think of us. Let’s follow our gut, believe in ourselves, and stand by our values & decisions. If we’re not sure of ourselves, what we stand for, and WHY, how can people logically respect or revere our uniqueness/individuality? Let’s embrace everything about ourselves, particularly the traits and experiences that set us apart.
- Recommended reading: Outnumbered, Jedediah Bila
There’s room for more dominant women in the world. It’s up to us to make our place… and then our mark to help create a better world. I’ll leave you with some advice from Kat Cole, President/COO of Cinnabon:
May peace, love, happiness, success, and chocolate be with you,
Additional recommended readings:
Everyone Communicates, Few Connect, John C. Maxwell
Executive Presence, Sylvia Ann Hewlett