The recent article Who's Missing in Your C-suite? discussed the lack of women in executive roles across virtually every industry and why that's bad for business. Research shows that companies with more women executives tend to have higher revenues. As a follow-up, More Women = More Money gave 3 practical tips to attract women leaders to your company. Now, as an end to this three-part women-in-leadership series, let's look at how you can support your women leaders.
Are Women "Born" Leaders?
Experts argue that one of the reasons that women make great leaders is because they were "born" that way. The argument is that women have innate characteristics that make them well-suited for leadership roles. Allowing women to engage in their own unique management style may help women executives tap into their full potential.
According to one study, companies with three or more women in management scored higher on each of the vital organizational dimensions--work environment and values, direction, coordination and control, leadership, external orientation, motivation, capability, accountability, and innovation. Some areas showed higher margins than others. For example, work environment and values increased seven points whereas capability only increased by one point. Another study points out that women generally tend to emphasize employee development, expectations and rewards, and role model tactics more often than their male counterparts. The study explains that employee development and role model tactics are both a large part of being a leadership team.
As another study points out, women tend to have a "transformational" leadership style, which means that they focus on the big picture--the overall future of the organization. They promote commitment and loyalty among their employees, which may be one of the reasons that turnover is lower when women are in leadership positions.
Some Practical Tips to Support Women in Leadership
One of the major reasons that women opt out of leadership positions is because they do not receive the support they need in the role. They have to deal with unrealistic expectations, stereotypes, and very little flexibility in some male-dominated environments. Encourage your women leaders by implementing some gender-focused policies. This support will allow women leaders to grow into the revenue-creating force cited in many of these studies.
- Let the women be women.
Women may outperform men when they are in leadership roles, but this typically occurs when they are allowed to be themselves. One study explains that women's leadership style encourages strong, collaborative relationships and teamwork. They want to engage their workers and empower them to make changes. They encourage innovation. However, women cannot fall into this "natural" leadership style when they are placed in male-dominated roles where the company expects them to "act like a man." Allowing the woman to lead in her own way will increase self-confidence, not just for the woman leader, but for everyone that she leads.
For women leaders: recognize that the negative perceptions you are facing are simply leadership stereotypes. There is absolutely no need for women executives to conform to this stereotype.
- Give women an opportunity to thrive doing what they do best.
Everyone's leadership style is different, and supporting new leadership means being flexible enough to embrace a new leadership style. (This applies to both men and women.) Speaking generally, women leaders tend to crave conversation and connectedness among employees. Allow women leaders to fulfill this need by letting them engage in different activities that will support this management style--allow for company outings, brainstorming sessions, and projects that embrace teamwork. This type of environment will generally increase company morale, overall loyalty, and reduce turnover.
- Allow for discovery (and mistakes).
New leaders, whether they are men or women, need some time to figure out their own personal leadership style. This is particularly important for women who don't have active women role models within their own company. Like any new leader, they will make mistakes, and it will take time to adjust. Don't assume that revenues will automatically increase the second you promote a woman. Give the process time and offer support when needed.
Studies have repeatedly shown that women leaders means better business, but making that transition can be difficult. Use these tips to support your women leaders, and your bottom line will thank you.
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