What Makes a Great Female Leader? Here Are 8 Key Leadership Qualities
Everyone leads differently. But when it comes to great female leaders, most share certain leadership qualities that have made them successful. These include vision, communication, confidence, delegation, honesty, empathy, humility, and problem-solving abilities.
Before we dive deep and examine these traits, what can we learn from the inspirational female leaders of our generation?
21st Century Great Women Leaders
All of these women possess the same essential qualities. Here they are:
“Vision is the art of seeing what is invisible to others.” — Jonathan Swift
While every organization is an independent entity from its owners and management team, the leader’s influence can make or break it. Vision is the most essential characteristic of a good leader because without it, you’ll just go around in circles.
You want someone who knows where you’re heading, so they can effectively lead you there. They can visualize what the future of the organization looks like and how to make it a reality. Vision also provides the inspiration followers need to persevere. Because when roadblocks come (and they will), a team needs vision in order to make it through to the other side.
“A lot of people are afraid to say what they want. That’s why they don’t get what they want.” — Madonna
If vision is the number one most important leadership quality, communication follows close behind. Effective leaders know how to express themselves in a way that builds trust and motivates the masses. At the end of the day, words can make or break a situation. A great female leader knows how to use that power to drive results.
The second part of communication is listening. Once a leader portrays their vision to their team, they should step back and listen to suggestions and opinions. This approach works better than dictating what you think is right. It’s a more inclusive method of leading that brings people on board and lets them own the process, which in turn makes them work harder.
It’s also important to be transparent in your communication, provide feedback, and inspire others. You shouldn’t assume that the message people heard is the one you intended to give. So verify the message and ensure it was clearly understood. When you rally your team and help them embrace the vision, they’ll put in the work to achieve the goal.
“Confidence is not ‘They will like me.’ Confidence instead is ‘I’ll be fine if they don’t’.” — Christina Grimmie
Confidence is trusting that you know what’s right for the organization and your ability to lead. It’s also the art of taking charge, being assertive, and giving direction without doubting yourself. The thing with confidence is that if you’re unsure about yourself, other people can smell it.
As a woman leader, confidence is even more critical because many people will try to undermine you. Real confidence begins when you believe in yourself as a person, believe your vision, and believe your instincts. Then it’s a matter of clearly explaining and selling it to other people, and giving direction for the way forward.
To be clear, confidence is not the same as arrogance (we all know those types). Confident leaders create space to hear others and to be corrected. It’s not about being overly aggressive or being perfect, because perfection is unattainable. Give yourself permission to be good enough, so you free up mental space to make other strategic contributions.
Ability to Delegate
This is something I’ve always struggled with. I’ve always believed in doing all the hard work myself, because it sets a good example. But one person can’t do everything. It’s inefficient and slows down the process. Instead, you should delegate tasks and responsibilities to your team. Not only will projects get done faster, it will also empower more people. People like to feel included, trusted, valued, and respected. This enables them to do more without you hovering, and gives them the freedom to create solutions and achieve goals on their own.
However, as you delegate, keep in the back of your mind that the buck stops with you. As the leader, you’re accountable for your team’s actions, which is why keeping an eye on projects is still a good idea.
“Integrity is doing the right thing, even when no one is watching.” — C.S. Lewis
Integrity is about being honest and incorruptible. Set an example by being truthful, sticking to your word, and living by your organization’s core values.
Here are some common behaviors associated with integrity:
- Treating all people fairly.
- Highlighting the success of the team instead of taking full credit.
- Appreciating your team’s time and effort (and showing that appreciation).
- Apologizing when you’re wrong.
One last thing when it comes to honesty. Strong leaders need to be able to tell their team when something isn’t working, even if it was their idea. It’s important to acknowledge when you’re wrong and be honest about it.
“Leadership is about empathy. It is about having the ability to relate to and connect with people for the purpose of inspiring and empowering their lives.” — Oprah Winfrey
By definition, empathy means understanding the feelings and perspectives of another person. A great leader has to understand the motivations, hopes, dreams, and problems of others. This enables you to forge personal connections with your employees.
For example, if someone is always late to work, a good leader would seek to understand the reason why instead of rebuking or firing them. Maybe the employee has a kid that keeps them awake at night or lives far from work. By being empathetic, your team will be more loyal and motivated to do better.
Sometimes when you reach a certain level of power, you become more enamored with the title than the results. But the best leaders display humility, or being humble. It’s all about selfless service to others, treating everyone equally, and listening to various perspectives.
In addition, humility involves being coachable. A true leader is aware of their strengths and weaknesses because they self-evaluate, ask for feedback, and strive to improve. They also know when to ask for help and, when appropriate, let somebody better equipped for a particular project take the reins.
Problem-Solver/Make Hard Decisions
Delegating, monitoring, and communication are all important. But when it comes down to it, an effective leader must solve problems and make life-changing decisions every day. These decisions could impact the trajectory of the entire organization, which is why you should think through your options carefully before choosing a path. This includes:
- Analyzing the problem logically from several angles and not getting emotional.
- Utilizing a team of trusted people to collaborate and find a solution.
- Balancing risk and benefits because all big decisions involve both.
That said, you shouldn’t take too long before making a decision. As Carly Fiorina says, “an imperfect but timely decision is better than a perfect but too late decision.” Therefore, you must have confidence and be well informed about all aspects of the business, and also have a true understanding of the problem that needs solving.
Though the numbers could be better, thousands of women leaders are leaving their mark in every arena including politics, tech, entertainment, and science.
As home managers and nurturers, female leaders are already well-versed in the qualities of good leadership. They have perfected the art of vision, excellent communication, confidence, delegation, honesty, empathy, humility, and, most importantly, decision making.
Leadership Qualities FAQs
What is the definition of a leader?
A leader is someone who inspires others to be better and do better by leading from the front. Good leaders see what’s needed, then rally others to achieve that goal or vision.
What is the difference between a leader and a manager?
The line between leader and manager can be blurry because they seem to do the same things. The simplest difference is that management is a position of power, while leadership is a trait. So while a person can rise up to be a manager, a leader can exist at any level.
Additionally, leaders have followers while managers have people working for them. Here are some more differences between being a leader and a manager:
– Leaders create a vision, managers set goals.
– Leaders build relationships, managers develop systems and processes.
– Leaders coach, managers direct.
Can leadership be taught?
Today, leadership courses can be found in colleges around the globe. That may make it seem like leadership can be taught, but it’s only partially true. Anyone can improve their leadership skills with enough training, but not everyone is capable of putting those skills into action.
Why is leadership an important skill?
Without leaders, people would just work haphazardly, lacking a common goal or direction. A true leader sets unified goals, provides direction, and keeps their team on the path to achievement.