Women leaders: Now is the time to grow, have a voice (and own it)

Do you truly get that your opinion needs to be heard? Women in leadership deserve a bigger voice.

Leadership, especially women in leadership roles, has always been a topic that I feel passionate about. I want to inspire women to understand that it is vital to be true to yourself, important to have an opinion and mostly know how to voice it; even when it feels demanding when you are in the minority.

In my career as an HR executive, I have faced many challenges, I have made mistakes but also celebrated several successes. That is why I can relate to women in leadership roles; part of my purpose is to share my lessons learned.

An opportunity to share some insight arose when I was invited to present to a group of talented and dynamic women at the recent HR Future’s Women Leaders of the Future Masterclass.

Something beautiful happens to women when they stand up for what they believe in and see their voice carry power.

My talk “Authentic Leadership in a Volatile World”, looked at the requirements for leaders to be successful in the VUCA (Volatile, Uncertain, Complex, Ambiguous) world. It requires a shift in the connection with oneself, one’s teams and the business. The traditional way of strategy is not sufficient anymore – leaders need to be fixed on their vision but flexible in the way this is achieved. More focus on agility, collaboration, creating context and diverse inputs is a necessity.

We discussed the skills required in the Future of Work; this is based on the research done by the University of Phoenix. The one skill I found appealing is Virtual Collaboration where one needs to have the ability to work productively, drive engagement and demonstrate presence as a member of a virtual team. The report highlights that “as a leader of a virtual team, individuals need to develop strategies for engaging and motivating the dispersed group. We are learning that techniques borrowed from gaming are extremely effective in engaging large virtual communities.”

Authenticity and approaches to be an authentic leader

Authenticity is about being yourself and being comfortable being yourself. Brene Brown says “Authenticity is not something you have or don’t have. It is a choice we have to show up and be real.”

In the VUCA world, employee engagement is at the lowest level and authentic leadership is even more important than before. One of the approaches I’ve highlighted was that “straight talk builds trust”. As women, we must not shy away from having tough conversations with team members, peers or one’s manager. To communicate in a direct manner is critical for successful outcomes. These conversations should still be done with empathy – directness without empathy… is mean.

In closing: authenticity is a daily practice.

A practice of letting go of what you believe you should be and embrace who you are. I want to leave you with these questions:

•What do you need to let go of to be authentic?
•What do you cover up, that is standing in your way of being truly authentic?
•What small step can you take today to move closer to being true to yourself?

Forbes published a great video highlighting “authentic leadership” – if you need some inspiration, click here: https://www.forbes.com/sites/kevinkruse/2017/06/20/5-keys-to-authentic-leadership/#2900817614da

Written by Anja van Beek, independent leadership consultant, talent strategist and coach