Sound Like A Leader

Certain learned speech patterns can prevent women from showing up as leaders at work.  Whether you realize it or not, there are very real barriers preventing women from fully self-actualizing as leaders.  

First off, opportunity. 155 countries have at least one law that limits women’s economic opportunities; 100 states put restrictions on the types of jobs women can do; and 18 countries allow husbands to dictate whether their wives can work at all.  This sends an explicit message to women that they are “less than” their male counterparts.

More implicitly, women have been socially conditioned to be deferential, conciliatory, and indirect.  While this makes for pleasant social communications, it does not help women sound like leaders.

So, what can you do to overcome these explicit and implicit challenges?  

  • Communicate directly.  Many women preface their requests with phrases like “Can you do me a favor and . . . ?” or “Would it be possible for you to . . . ?”  These communication styles downplay your authority to make other people feel more comfortable. But, it can lead your direct reports to think they have a choice as to whether or not to complete a certain task - which in reality is an essential part of their job function. If you need someone to do something, ask them clearly and politely - Please complete that brief for me in client-ready form by 5pm so I have enough time to make edits and turn it around to the client.  Thanks, SNW  Clarity is kindness.  

  • Give feedback. Women withhold important coaching because they are worried that they will hurt their subordinate’s feelings or offend them.  However, what might hurt someone in the short term might help them in the long term. Withholding important coaching because it might be painful can really damage your subordinates over the long-term because they won’t have the opportunity to fix the problem and progress.  Giving timely, specific, and actionable feedback - even when it is constructive - is very generous. It is also essential to growth and satisfaction. It is especially important for under-represented groups that typically get less actionable feedback than their male counterparts.  Remember, feedback is generous, not mean.  

  • Own your strengths.  Women are typically reluctant to stand up and take credit for what they’ve accomplished, achieved, or initiated.  They often say “we” did this or credit the team and other players rather than claiming the credit for themselves. Leaders should be comfortable stating what they’ve accomplished in terms that make it clear who achieved the desired result.  If you can’t speak powerfully and compellingly about your accomplishments, I guarantee no one else will!

These are three ways to improve your executive presence and sound like the powerful leader that you are!

Remember, anything or anyone who doesn’t LIGHT YOU UP is too small for you.

xoxo,

Sarah-Nell Walsh

Wayfinders, LLC

Career Coach & Strategist