Women comprise less than one-third of the workforce, especially in middle management and above, although they are as qualified as their male counterparts. Women Leadership Programmes can help promote diversity and inclusion and develop women leaders to lead themselves, lead others and lead the business. Such programmes are designed to enable women leaders to build an executive presence, navigate uncertainty in industry successfully, balance the demands of personal and professional responsibilities, innovate, prioritise business needs, and drive positive growth.
While many of the topics apply to men too (sometimes more so), covering these problem areas individually from the women’s perspective, with the cohort of other women leaders across the organisation, builds a camaraderie and support system that extends beyond the programme. Organisations need to cover the following focus areas for an effective diversity push:
The ability to persuade people towards a win-win situation is a key leadership skill. It involves learning to gain agreement from peers, seniors, and juniors by directly communicating with them. This topic includes understanding concepts like pushing and pulling when influencing others, affecting others' behaviour in a time-sensitive manner and achieving objectives by using techniques to swing others into action.
A true leader must have the ability to influence others. To be able to do that effectively they must understand the dynamics of persuasive communication, leverage data and information to influence effectively and influence without using authority. Using Robert Cialdini’s principles from his book Influence - The Psychology of Persuasion identifies six ways that people are consistently and automatically persuaded. They are reciprocity, scarcity, liking, authority, social proof and commitment/consistency.
Building business acumen
Another focus area for senior leadership is sharpening the business acumen by envisioning the big picture of the business, interpret and analyse financial statements, appreciate the interconnected-ness of various business decisions and their impact on financial outcomes and applying strategic thinking and execution principles in their individual focus areas.
Strategic thinking is a fundamental skill that all leaders must have. For leaders, it is important to understand relationships among the different parts of the business model, identify hypotheses, assumptions and risks for the business, find ways to add value or reduce cost and brainstorm market disruption strategies. These expectations are now just as relevant at the senior levels and further down the hierarchy as well.
You are as good as your team. It is imperative to be a great people manager. The skill to identifying the highs and lows of team performance, setting practical goals and developing key performance indicators to track individual performance of team members, coaching to uncover and fix performance gaps are critical to master.
There is enough precedence to know that a successful leader must have the ability to build trusting relationships, internally with the people they work with, and externally with partners and customers. Under this section, we work on understanding the business impact of a lack of trust and learn to foster open dialogue and transparency in conversations.
Understanding your comfort zone
We all know that growth happens outside the comfort zone. You can consciously develop crucial leadership skills to identity who and what defines an individual’s comfort zone, recognise and appreciate the impact of working out of it, self-inquiry to find ways to challenge the status quo and ignite a personal drive to excel.
Networking skills are crucial to have as you climb up the ladder. Here, we highlight and appreciate the advantages and relevance of networking in the context of your role. It becomes vital to understand the dynamics of communication specific to networking, using a compelling follow-up to maintain active contacts and connections and creating your own personal and professional network.
Like I said the above-mentioned leadership skills apply to all leaders. However, if we are to fill the gender gap rapidly especially at the senior levels, running such programmes regularly is mandatory.
Bhavna Dalal is the Founder and CEO of Talent Power Partners a Leadership Development company based in Bangalore, India.
The thoughts and opinions shared here are of the author.
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