More and more women are rising up the ranks to lead countries and global organizations worldwide. In fact, according to a Pew Research Center study, since 2005, the number of world leaders who are women has more than doubled.
Yet, still a lot of work needs to be done. In the U.S., women hold less than 5 percent of the C-suite top spots. And, in regions like Latin America or Asia, women leading large organizations is pretty uncommon.
But, in my work helping women around the world develop advancement strategies, I've noticed traits, unique to women, that set them up to be strong leaders--particularly in a global environment.
Here are the top 5 traits women possess that make them strong global leaders:
Being able to wear other people's shoes is very important when leading in a global environment. Leaders need to try to understand different perspectives and empathize in order to be effective.
While I'm always the first to teach the premise that agility and empathy are not exclusive to either gender, it's hard to ignore the research. An in-depth white paper by Caliper states:
Women leaders also were found to be more empathetic and flexible, as well as stronger in interpersonal skills than their male counterparts.
"These qualities combine to create a leadership style that is inclusive, open, consensus building, collaborative and collegial," said Herb Greenberg, Ph.D., President and Chief Executive Officer of Caliper.
Communication is key to effective leadership, particularly when it comes to communicating across cultures. Harvard Business School professor Nitin Nohria, writes that great leaders "spend the bulk of their time communicating."
And, multiple studies over the years have consistently indicated that women are better communicators than men. Some suggest that women use many more words than men (anywhere from 10,000 to 20,000 words a day to a man's 5,000 to 10,000). One study by the University of Maryland School of Medicine attributes this to female brains possessing more of the "language protein."
The female leaders I've worked with seem to have an innate skill for listening. When one woman is sharing a problem or challenge, the others seem to instantly give their undivided attention. They listen, ask some questions, and then share their thoughts.
Listening is a skill that's necessary and appreciated across all cultures and particularly useful when leading teams of people from different backgrounds.
When managing cross-cultural teams, leaders need to understand that team members work, assess problems and come up with solutions differently.
Women seem to genuinely enjoy working with others. They enjoy learning new perspectives and coming up with solutions together. The women in my workshops always ensure each person in the room has a voice and is a part of the conversation. This means that everyone's opinion and skills are included, allowing for stronger and more creative outcomes.
As I mentioned, women enjoy learning other's perspectives. They're also very interested in discovering new ways to improve upon themselves and sharpen their skills. This focus on development makes women self-aware--crucial for both improving leadership skills as well as emotional intelligence.
McKinsey and Catalyst found that more gender balance at the top produces better financial results. However, there are still many challenges that keep women from leading global teams and companies. But as we continue to chip away at these barriers, both internally and externally, our organizations will only become stronger.