In recent years, many strides have been made in efforts to increase the number of women in leadership positions. However, little to nothing is done to prepare most women for these positions. While women led teams and organisations are often more productive than those led by men, this lack of preparation and support for women leaders often results in a number of challenges. For the sake of this article, I would like to focus on 4 areas and ways in which women can be prepared for the successful execution of leadership roles. These four areas are: training, evaluation, counselling and mentorship.
While one may have basic education and training in the discipline, every leader needs to be trained on company policies and procedures as well as leadership and people management prior to being appointed into a position of power. Moreover, organisations need to invest in the constant training of leaders and stuff members at large. In a generation where being self-taught and self-made is glorified, success remains a group assignment and leaders need other people to train them.
In most cases, training opportunities are given without any evaluation. Moreover, in most cases, organisations use evaluations to check where one falls short and can thus cause employees to be dishonest when evaluated. It is important, therefore, that organisations create a safety culture around evaluations so that employees feel comfortable to share their shortcomings knowing that they will be offered help and not have their weaknesses used against them. This should also create opportunities for peer-to-peer training within the organisation.
Leadership can be emotionally taxing, especially when one is faced with all the challenges that women leaders often experience. This can include issues such as imposter syndrome, patriarchy, pull her down syndrome, insubordination, etc. Moreover, many professional women often have to show up for their families in equally demanding ways and may struggle to cope from time to time. Counselling then becomes an important tool to help them navigate the new task and the responsibilities thereof. In addition to that, it helps the woman leader not to take out their frustrations on their team or family members.
Every woman in a leadership position of any kind needs mentors who have walked the path and progressed past her current position. Not only will this put into perspective that there are bigger opportunities to pursue and give the woman leader advisors to help navigate the position, it also allows the leader to be open to mentoring other women coming after them to take over the position they currently hold. It is, in fact, of utmost importance that female leaders be mentored while they mentor other women coming after them.
Although these recommendations are meant to be executed by the employer, it very seldom happens that way. My recommendation- when the employer fails to offer these supportive measures for newly appointed managers and team leaders- is that one should take the initiative and do it for themselves. While it is unfair, it may perhaps make for a more compelling case when evidence is presented of the benefit of these support measures. It also doesn’t have to be expensive.
In terms of training, look for YouTube tutorials and other free learning platforms where you can take leadership and more industry specific courses. Use conferences and workshops, as well as social media, to network and find peers in the field and potential mentors. These people can also assist with evaluation and advice. Unfortunately, I cannot advise that you seek counselling outside the proper structures lest the person you’re confiding in fails to advise correctly or keep the information confidential. Instead, I recommend that you invest in a therapist, even if you don’t have any problems (yet). Finally, remember to make time to celebrate your new appointment and enjoy the journey. You’ve earned the position, therefore, you deserve to be there.
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