Women dealing with leadership roles, whether it’s in corporate settings or as entrepreneurs, face unique difficulties. It appears that there is a large difference between female executives who easily surrender their authority and those who are rigidly adamant about their decisions once they have been made. Sadly enough, neither of these approaches will be effective for lasting success at the top.

As strong and capable female leaders, how can we lead without being unfairly judged or labeled negatively? It is essential to recognize that the fundamental components of leadership go far beyond these damaging stereotypes.

Authenticity Matters

Playing the game and adhering to society’s expectations in the workplace can be tempting. But when being a commanding leader is inaccurately associated with terms such as “controlling” or “demanding,” it not only has an adverse effect on women leaders’ power but also their respectability.

During my early career, I was both astounded and captivated by the graceful way a relatively young manager led older subordinates during an altercation. It was all hands on deck to make a shipping deadline when one team member began questioning every decision, yet this young leader responded tenderly but decisively with “I am happy to discuss the reasons why with you later, but at this moment we need your help without question to get this out the door.” Her leadership embraced authority while also remaining collaborative – it left me deeply impressed.

Seeking insight into how women could lead without compromising themselves, I consulted Sarah Hathorn, a Professional Mentor and Career Acceleration Coach at Illustra Consulting.

“Women who by lead by mimicking men reveal a lack of professional identity,” said Hathorn. “Professional confidence is not gender-based; it’s all about authenticity and developing the qualities that resonate with who you are.” To forge a unique identity, leaders must receive honest evaluations that make visible where they need to refine their professional persona.

If you’re finding it difficult to discover your unique style, take these three steps and unlock the real you:

  1. Start by looking at great leaders you admire and reflecting on their traits, how they interact with a team, and handle stress. Taking the initiative to seek out mentorship can be extremely advantageous for your career development as well. Working together with someone experienced in leadership will provide valuable insight into honing your own skillset.
  2. Secondly, step away from self-focus and start putting others first. Being a leader is all about providing service to the people around you, and as John Quincy Adams said, “If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more, and become more, you are a leader.” Achieving the perfect balance between being a figure of authority and providing service can be difficult. So instead of relying solely on your power, Hathorn suggests that you start from a place where you are serving others first. For women who “lead as a coach by giving support, training, encouragement, mentorship, and resources, employees will become loyal followers whom you can lead to victory.” To provide exceptional service, you must be willing to put your own interests and pride aside in order to prioritize the needs of the business and team.
  3. Third, To achieve harmony between personal and professional, Hathorn suggests getting to know your team members but also setting definitive borders and expectations. “When you’re working, it’s important to perform to get results; after work, time is for relaxation and personal relationships.” Authenticity and professional conduct go hand in hand – although it might be natural to divulge personal details with friends, doing so can unfortunately have a negative impact on your leadership at the workplace. Women are often inclined towards more informal and cooperative approaches to leading; however, being too open or even clothing choices may unintentionally sabotage this style of management.

Embracing your true leadership style is a journey, yet it profoundly conveys that you are confident and worthy of admiration. Instead of attempting to mirror somebody else or shoving yourself into an uncomfortable mold, discover how authentically expressing your characteristics leads you to genuine confidence and respect within—and project this both internally and externally.

Ultimately, being viewed as “bossy” is preferable to come across as disingenuous.

Kelly Azevedo is the mastermind behind She’s Got Systems, a custom coaching program that helps clients acquire support and expertise to triumph in their fields. Kelly has worked with startups, six-figure businesses, and million-dollar online ventures—all of which she assisted in establishing dependable systems for growth.

The Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC) is an exclusive group of the world’s most promising young entrepreneurs. Joining forces with Citi, YEC recently launched #StartupLab – a free virtual mentorship platform designed to assist millions of aspiring business owners in launching and expanding their ventures. Offering live video chats, as well as specialized content libraries and email lessons, this program promises valuable insights into startup success!

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