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Happy International Women’s Day! Today, people around the world are taking the time to honor and celebrate the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women of past and present. In my role at Leadercast, I can’t help but think about the female leaders around the globe who are making a difference in their organizations, families and communities—women just like me who are striving to be the best versions of themselves and doing their part to make the world a better place.
Working for Leadercast means I am blessed to learn from a myriad of female leaders. In honor of today and in recognition of Women’s History Month, I wanted to share a few of the best leadership lessons I’ve learned recently that I believe will benefit my fellow female leaders. Here are four lessons that I hope will help you on your leadership journey as much as they’ve helped me on mine.
Know your value.
What’s the difference between a male leader and a female leader? Absolutely nothing, says Dr. Jill Guindon-Nasir, adjunct faculty member at the University of Virginia and former senior corporate director at The Ritz-Carlton Leadership Center, in an interview on Leadercast NOW.
“Being a woman leader [is] no different than being a man leader,” says Jill. “There are a lot stereotypes put on us, and I think if we start to believe those, then that's what will become reality. Perception is reality.”
Jill says women leaders should disregard stereotypes. They should say and ask for what they want and stand up for themselves. “You bring a lot to the table. You have to know your value, and you can't know your value until you know you're valuable.”
Think about what you bring to the table. What value do you bring to your organization? Always remember that your value is not determined by someone else’s opinion of you. Know what you bring to the table, not what someone assumes you bring to the table.
Remember your voice.
We all have a voice, but whether or not we use it in the workplace is another story. Like many of us, it took conscious effort for Kat Cole, North America COO and president of FOCUS Brands, to find her voice in the business world. “The way I found my voice was first remembering that there's a reason I'm there,” she says in an interview with Leadercast. “There's a reason that you have a seat at the table. Someone put you there. Someone advocated for you to be there. You didn't just miraculously show up.”
But Kat explains that it’s important not to confuse having a seat at the table with having a voice. “I've seen many people have a seat at the table, have a position of authority, and not speak up,” she says. “I've been the employee that's watched that, and that is such a shame and such an unfortunate waste of an opportunity.”
No matter what position you’re in, remember you weren’t placed there by accident. Use your voice—you have a duty and responsibility to do so to live up to the role you were given. Don’t stay quiet when you think of ideas or solutions that will help further the mission of the company. As Kat explains in the interview, the more you speak up, the more feedback you get that will enable you to be more comfortable and confident in using your voice.
Advocate for yourself.
Don’t let you get in your way of reaching every opportunity. “If you don't advocate for yourself in your career when it comes to your opportunities as well as your salary, no one else will,” says Julie Bauke, strategic career advisor at The Bauke Group, in a Leadercast NOW interview.
She explains that women may see a job posting that lists 10 requirements and will walk away from it if they only have nine of what’s required. “A guy will see that he has two of them, apply, and get the job. And then we're sitting there wondering how the heck did that happen,” she shares.
Nobody cares about your career as much as you do, says Julie, so it’s up to you to advocate and fight for yourself and set yourself up for every opportunity. If you’re being paid unfairly, don’t sit there and fume about it, do something, Julie advises. “You can build a business case, and go in, and talk to either your boss or human resources about what you found out, about why you deserve to be paid more and ask for it in a nice way.”
Get comfortable with failure.
The women in history who have made an impact on the world all have at least one quality in common: They were bold—failure be darned—sticking up for what they believed in and having the tenacity to see through their missions (Joan of Arc, Susan B. Anthony and Rosa Parks are just a few female world-changers who come to mind). A fear of failure can sometimes be seen as a good thing because it pushes you to be your absolute best, but Aja Brown, mayor of Compton, California, says a fear of failure has no place in bold leadership.
“The fear of failure can be one of the biggest impediments to making an impact,” says Aja in a video on Leadercast NOW. She continues to note that leaders don’t make excuses—they lead.
“If you're afraid to make decisions that could shake you—that could shake your organization, your business, your team—think about the choice that you have to make, and think about the impact that could be had if you move forward,” she says.
Are you afraid of failure? Get comfortable with failure by taking more risks. Don’t let a fear of failure stop you from being a bold leader with the potential to have an immense impact.