Wonder Women Know That Their Authentic Style Is the Pathway to Success
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No matter how many times Wonder Woman's mother or companion, Steve Trevor, tried to control her, she couldn't be molded into a safer version of the courageous amazon she was. To fit in, women in business may feel a subtle or overt pressure to act in a certain way. Yet, research shows that authentic leadership, where a leader possesses high emotional intelligence -- the ability to observe behavior and respond accordingly, provide transparency and possess superior interpersonal skills combined with a commitment to honestly represent oneself -- outperforms authoritarian leadership when it comes to creating environments for disruption.
Nithya Ramanathan (Ph.D., CEO and Co-Founder, Nexleaf Analytics) and Ida Beerhalter (Co-Head IOME Private Investment Office, Member Astia's board of Trustees) have built incredible careers as disrupters -- the former as a startup founder and the latter as an investor. In an ecosystem where women receive only 2 percent of venture funding and account for only 7 percent of VC partners in Silicon Valley we have plenty to learn from how these incredible disrupters lead and follow authentically.
Transparency provides a head start in course correction.
A key component of leading disruption is to provide role-based transparency to the stakeholders most impacted by the change you are bringing to bare.
"I try to be very transparent when I take risks that don't work out or when I make mistakes," says Ramanathan. She understands that 'tone at the top' is key. If she doesn't practice providing visibility, even during failures, no one less will either. She says, "Team members feel comfortable voicing concerns and sharing their own difficulties, mistakes, and setbacks.
Making disruption a reality is an iterative process. Without transparency, there is no timely insight into potential contingency plans or goals and process pivots.
"In tech and especially in global public health, it's so important to be honest about how a planned project is proceeding, because course-correction is often necessary," Ramanathan says. By being authentic, leaders provide the right environment for honest discussion in real-time, without the need to sugar coat challenges that ultimately cost unnecessary time, money, and sets the tone for a progressive culture.
Ramanathan's advice for not losing yourself while you lead: Act on the knowledge that common ground is a direct line to authentic leadership that connects instead of alienates.
We're working as an organization to gain the trust of other stakeholders in the sectors we work in. Some have been skeptical about our objectives. Demonstrating that we're interested in systemic improvement through authentic collaboration helps allay their fears," says Ramanathan.
Know yourself better than anyone else.
Beerhalter has defined her own path to investing. Throughout her career, she has relied on her instincts and her keen sense of objectiveness and authenticity when it comes to where she can add value and where she cannot.
"The best leaders know when not to do something and have no qualms to recommend somebody else if they think somebody would be a better fit," says Beerhalter.
Open and honest dialogue is at the bedrock of Beerhalter's authentic leadership and followership style. Without a safe environment, she believes people cannot reach their full potential. She says, "I create an atmosphere of trust and stop all behaviors which bring a negative undercurrent, like mistrust, dishonesty, aggression. It is important to create a space and an atmosphere were all can focus their energy on the project but still also grow as individuals together."
Beerhalter's advice for not losing yourself while you lead: Start by asking yourself the right question.
Beerhalter says, "First and foremost, I make sure that I am the right leader for the project and for the team.
Focus on your values as you develop your authentic style.
I work with leaders at various states of maturity. Some have been board members and corporate officers for years; others are just beginning their journey. The more mature the leader, the more she has an idea of who she is as a leader, what she brings to the table and how she will use her work to raise the next generation of transformational leaders.
Wonder women tackle these fork-in-the-road kind of contemplations by reminding themselves about why they took on the disruption in the first place. As women transition into new roles that require the next level of leadership maturation, there tends to be a reconsideration of personal leadership style and how it fits into new and bigger responsibilities and accountability.
My advice for not losing yourself while you lead: Ground your leadership in the change you want to create.
Birthing a new status quo will challenge every ounce of your being. As you face pushback, know that you are the leader because you see the problem and the solution. Your job isn't to fix everything. It is to use the soft and hard skills you possess to make your vision a reality.