As the Forbes 2018 Women’s Summit started, it seemed like adequate to share the latest insights on female leadership. A recent Pew Research Center Study stated that female leadership is on the rise. While women typically occupy top finance and legal positions, they rarely move to CEO. Instead, the best career path is to find a way to being groomed as the COO as consideration for the C-Suite is usually via this pipeline.
The ascension may be hard and slow, the situation seems to go in the good direction, and it comes with bottom-line benefits too/ This was even backed up by The Royal Bank of Canada in their study demonstrating that having women in CEO positions improves company financial performance and lends to a more diverse workplace. 35-year-old Stitch Fix CEO Katrina Lake explained: “decision-makers realise that being more inclusive of women, on every level, is simply good business.”
Beth Gerstein, the Co-CEO of Brilliant Earth, also joins the movement. As a female CEO in the historically male-dominated jewellery industry, Gerstein is driven by the possibility of creating opportunities for women to reach the highest levels of the corporate ladder. 81% of Brilliant Earth’s overall workforce is comprised of women, including 67% of management and 80% of C-Level executives. Birch Bender Co-Founder, Lizzie Ackerman, has the same HR profile, as her company’s workforce is primarily composed of women.
When you reach that level, what skills do you need to display and master in order to advance and become a more effective leader? Dr Betty Vandenbosch, an award-winning administrator at Purdue University Global, has her own list of five lessons learned skills around becoming a more effective leader.
- Actively Listen. Leaders listen more than they talk. Women seem to be better at this. But it doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be expressing your ideas, but being able to adequately hear the concerns of your team will make you more effective at coordinating it.
- Stay Calm and Peaceful. If you have an inner calm and peace about who you are and what you are capable of, you keep your ego in check. Someone always putting ambition over collective efficiency and drive will always be ineffective as a leader because they’re only looking out for themselves. By accepting where you are, you’ll be able to do perform and pave the way towards your personal goals.
- Set Regular Meetings & Stick To Them. By meeting with your entire team, as often as daily, but no less than weekly, you have the opportunity to speak to them and look them in the eyes. You will be able to assess the efficiency of your collaboration and see how you can further improve the quality of the team work. And, you’ll get to know & like each other better.
- Creativity. Creativity is having lots of ideas, but innovation is applying the good ones to a known reality in order to disrupt or get around a structural problem. An innovative leader knows how to create the environment for such qualities to emerge in the corporate environment, but a leader also appreciates the naysayers.
- Not Being Afraid To Change Course When Warranted. An innovative leader recognises when an idea isn’t as good as she thought. Commitment to a course of action is important, but voluntary blindness is never a winner’s strategy. Innovative leaders are not afraid to change course when they clearly see it leads nowhere. The first idea’s only merit is being the first, opening the way to thinking and innovation. Do not fetishise it and keep yourself alert for the next waves that will take you to new heights.
- Be Persistent: If you practice persistence and resilience, nothing can stop you. During your journey, you will likely face a lot of resistance, but ultimately if you stick with what you believe is right, you can truly make an impact.
- Lead by example: Practice what you preach. It’s the first source of respect towards a leader. Everything you do sets the tone for the organisation. Even day-to-day things, such as showing up to meetings on time, addressing customer inquiries with urgency and care, walking to work instead of driving, and being responsive to feedback and new ideas for improvement, show your team that you are invested in the work that you’re doing and encourage them to follow in suit.
- You’re only as good as your team: You’re the average of those you work with on a daily basis. Finding and nurturing the right people is critical to your success and will take up much of your time and energy. Your success as a CEO and as a company is not due to your own personal achievement, but through building the good team for the project and empowering others to carry out your strategy and vision while reaching their own individual goals.
Gerstein cited that for the first eight years of running the company, Brilliant Earth Co-Ceo Eric Grossberg met with every candidate that joined the company. They were able to hire not only the best fit for the job, but also built the brand and the corporate culture associated to their firm and their teams. They then hired an HR team to enable them to scale, but it didn’t mean they left the process to the HR team. They host a CEO breakfast with new hires shortly after they join the company, so they have early and direct contact with us to instill in them the culture and the brand’s philosophy.
- Repetition is key: You must say, say, say and say again. Your ideas, your projects must not only be expressed in clear terms, but they must become mottos, slogans. You might sound like a broken record, but it can take 6-7 times of repeating the same message, in varying formats, for it to be heard by everyone in your organisation.
- You are always on: The office no longer exists, being a CEO is not a job nor a gig, it’s a responsibility. Leaving challenges and problems at the office is not an option. The role of CEO is constant and is always about anticipating challenges that may threaten the sustainability of the business.