Habits that keep smart women from rising to the top

Challenge these behaviours to become unstuck and embrace a leadership mindset. By Priya Prakasan

Growing up women are often taught the virtues of being nice, getting along and bringing people together, but not how to command and be leaders. This skewed focus can translate to issues in the workplace where women find it difficult to share their point of view with authority, try unsuccessfully to find a balance between being nice and assertive, and focus too much on establishing their legitimacy. These are personal challenges that require a change in mindset as well as a questioning of perspectives and long-held stereotypes on both sides of the table. Here are five tendencies women need to seriously challenge in their quest to advance.

1. Making a choice between being liked and achieving
Women want to feel powerful, but often have to deal with being labelled as pushy or difficult. Rather than trying to find that elusive middle ground, become comfortable with voicing your viewpoint, no matter how uncomfortable it is. You’re working for and towards the company’s greater good, not competing in a popularity race.

2. Underestimating their leadership skills
When it comes to excelling in senior leadership roles, women tend to underestimate their abilities because of the subtle gender bias that still exists in organisations. It alludes to a certain leadership stereotype, which sees women second-guessing themselves and questioning their decisions a lot more than their male counterparts would. Women should steer clear of underestimating themselves and believe themselves capable of shining in these leadership roles. Think big, banish stereotypes and put yourself firmly in the driver’s seat.

3. Striving for perfectionism
This one’s a drawback, irrespective of gender, but it is true women tend to feel more pressure to be perfect. They also tend to be more demanding of themselves as they’re wary of being blamed for errors. The desire to say the right thing, tick all the right boxes, and fulfil every single expectation increases anxiety to skyrocketing levels. This can hinder growth and performance, create teams that depend unhealthy on their leaders, and put your on the path to burnout. So allow yourself to be imperfect, create more stakeholders by involving others in the process, and understand that its okay to be vulnerable.

4. Reliving setbacks and blame
Setbacks and mistakes are inevitable in life and in business. What matters is what and how you learn from them so as to keep marching ahead. If you spend all your energy ruminating on mistakes and reliving the setbacks then you will get accustomed to negative thoughts. Setbacks provide a perfect time to learn new skills and seek growth opportunities. So harness the potential of these situations

5. Difficulty saying ‘No’
This one is part of being afraid to speak up as well as creating a situation where you disappoint of hurt another’s feelings. Women often find it difficult to say no because they want to get along and build strong connections. The flip side is that this lets people take advantage of you. Not an enviable trait for a leader. When someone comes with across, weigh what it would take to say ‘yes’. If it doesn’t fit in with your goals, isn’t aligned with your objectives and can frankly be done by anyone else, then say ‘no’. This creates firm boundaries and makes your actions clear so that people can accordingly set their expectations. It will also, importantly, earn you their respect, because you aren’t afraid to speak up for yourself.

Photograph: Katemangostar/

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