Are Women Natural Born Leaders?

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Are Women Natural Born Leaders?

This week, I’m on the road preparing to give a keynote speech at the tech symposium in Atlanta. My speech topic focuses on women taking the lead in a new and needed leadership model, which requires joining with and inviting men to co-create a balanced and united voice of leadership. I will be asking the audience this question:

True or false: Women are natural born leaders? 

When I have asked this question to previous mixed-gender audiences, it’s surprising how many people still think the answer may be “false.” Some believe that women have other skillsets in which they excel but that leadership doesn’t come naturally to most women. The correct answer to the question, though, is “true.” As humans, women have the natural potential to be as adept as men at leadership, and are natural born leaders to the same degree that men are.

Why then do some people still think the answer is “false”? It comes down to women’s confidence and self-worth. Being an effective leader begins with knowing and believing in our significance and stepping up to take the lead. And now is the perfect time for women to work on confidence and embrace the leader within. Because now more than ever before, there is a demand across Corporate America and in every industry for a new leadership model. What got us here won’t get us there.

Let me tell you a story about one of my CEO clients that helps to make this point. This CEO—let’s call him Mike—recently said, “Becky, I know I am maximizing my potential as a leader at this company when I can put my head on my pillow at night knowing I have tapped into and leveraged all of the diverse perspectives and views from people in my organization.” 

Mike emphasized that the days of having the same people at the table—while other voices go unheard—are over. “For me, it’s all about minimizing risk and ensuring we have a balance of thinking to make good decisions, critically solve the right problems with the right experiences and background.” He added that this new model must inherently encapsulate a balance of thinking, decision-making, and experiences that reflect the new challenges and opportunities of today’s marketplace.

At SHAMBAUGH, we know that female leaders have a significant role to play in helping to shape this model. Women bring many of the qualities and skillsets that have become critical for leading in the current work environment, such as collaboration, emotional intelligence (EI), social intelligence (SI), and using coach-like behaviors—which are now replacing the traditional command-and-control style—to lead teams and build relationships. 

There’s another point too that I’ll be emphasizing in my speech on Friday: while the bottom line on this conversation is about how more women can move into leadership, this dialogue is not only about women, and it can’t be. It’s about all of us. It’s not about “men’s nature” versus “women’s nature” but about human nature.

The greatest limitation that gets in the way of becoming true leaders is ourselves.   People follow and respect you not because of where you sit in an organization based on your job title or how much you make. They follow you because of your significance—in other words, the unique value you bring that supports others’ goals and serves others. I call that value that you create “purposeful leadership.”

Since your significance in an organization is based on how your colleagues see you, it’s critical to have an accurate perspective. Are you aware of the lens that others view you from? If not, that’s the first step to gaining clarity in who you are (or can become) as a leader.

In my next post, I’ll continue this line of thought by sharing three keys to unlock your leadership potential and become the voice of change we need to create a united voice of leadership in our companies. 

Rebecca Shambaugh is a leadership expert on building inclusive and high performance cultures. She speaks at major conferences and to executives on how to disrupt traditional mindsets and create an inspiring vision and roadmap for driving greater levels of innovation and performance through a unified voice for leadership. Rebecca is the Founder of Women in Leadership and Learning, a regular contributor to Harvard Business Review, and blogger for the Huffington Post. She is author of the best-selling booksIt’s Not a Glass Ceiling, It’s a Sticky Floor andMake Room for Her: Why Companies Need an Integrated Leadership Model to Achieve Extraordinary Results

         SHAMBAUGH’s Mission: We’re on a mission to develop high-performing and inclusive leaders who transform workplace cultures so everyone can thrive

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