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3 Essential Leadership Skills for Women — Bright Space Coaching | Leadership Development for Women in STEM

(Last Updated On: March 26, 2022)

Last Updated on March 26, 2022 by Admin

Have you ever been told you’re bossy? Aggressive? Too much? What about too emotional? You’re too nice?

Do you struggle to find the balance between being respected and liked at work? Do you struggle to find balance at all?

If you’re like most women, you likely said yes to any (or all) of the above questions. And let’s face it: this double-edged sword of trying to hide our feminine strengths to fit into a masculine work environment is holding women back.

Women are asking for raises and getting promotions at the same rate as men, yet we have a long way to go to close the gender gap. We need a new approach to leadership, one where traditional feminine strengths are recognized and rewarded. Playing by the old rules of leadership is over.

Yet, when we try to adopt a traditionally masculine approach to leadership (i.e. authoritative rather than participative), disconnect with our emotions, and focus on our weaknesses rather than our strengths, the gap in women leaders grows wider. 

It’s time to own who you are and what you bring to the table.

Identifying and honing your unique strengths will help you clarify your firepower leadership style and embrace who you are, so you can lead more effectively, find greater balance, and continue to advance your career.

Women can advance in leadership by understanding and applying feminine strengths to workplace scenarios. There is no one right way to lead, and by allowing yourself to make peace with who you truly are, you can leverage your natural strengths to empower your employees, accelerate collaborative decision-making, and impact the way your organization sees women leaders.

Instead of hiding the feminine traits that make you a great leader, embrace them. Discover ways that you can share the value of these strengths with others. Leverage these strengths to clarify your leadership style and inspire others to do the same. Leading with your strengths is a simple way to narrow the gender gap and find your feminine voice in a male-dominated field.

Flip the stereotypes and use them to your advantage. Turn the stereotypes into strengths.

Here are 3 Essential Leadership Skills for Women:

You’ve probably heard me say that your spark can set the world on fire. That’s what I’m talking about with Firepower Leadership. To be a Firepower Leader, you’re taking your spark – the thing that makes you unique – your Strengths, Passions, Accomplishments, Resources, and Knowledge – and using it to make an impact in the world.

It’s using your gifts and talents to make a difference. You can be a catalyst for change in your organization, and you can start from where you are – using the knowledge and experience you already have. That’s Firepower Leadership.

The world needs more women leaders. We need leaders who inspire us, encourage us, engage with us, and help us bring out our best selves. We need leaders who will ask the tough questions to preserve what’s right. Leaders who care about people over profit or productivity. Leaders who ask “how can we do this differently?” rather than “how can we do this faster?”

What is Firepower Leadership?

Firepower Leadership is not about what you look like or how you identify. It’s about embracing the skills that connect us. The strengths and styles that bring humanity together. That bridge gaps, foster connection, and change lives. It’s about shifting female stereotypes and turning them into strengths.

We can do that by embracing typically feminine traits like compassion, curiosity, and collaboration to make an impact in our organizations, our communities, and the world.

It requires a shift from the masculine to a balance with the feminine. Shifting from command and control to collaboration. From forcing to allowing. From blaming to questioning. From criticizing to developing.

Employees today – especially Millennials – are seeking more meaning in their work. More inspiration. More impact. They’re looking for constant feedback, but they want it delivered in a way that makes them feel cared for. Like the leader is truly helping them grow and develop. Feedback that’s not punitive, it’s powerful.

Firepower leaders can deliver feedback that resonates with employees. By releasing control of the outcome, leaders who embrace their Firepower style can approach the conversation with compassion, curiosity, and collaboration.

When leaders approach situations with curiosity, they ask questions to get to the root of things instead of assuming, blaming, or demanding. We can also be curious about the people we work with – asking questions to find out what drives them, what gets them out of bed in the morning, what keeps them up at night, what impact do they hope to make in your organization?

Imagine if more leaders took the time to get to know the needs and desires of their employees. And used this knowledge to guide, develop, and support their teams.

It’s no secret that the reason most people leave organizations is because of their direct manager. Firepower leaders can create more supportive, nurturing, people-centered cultures that promote growth, development, and community and belonging.

Firepower Leaders can foster an environment where it’s safe to make mistakes, ask for help, and learn new skills. Firepower leaders give employees permission to bring their whole selves to work without fear or hesitation.

And that’s what we need. Leaders who aren’t afraid to be themselves – to be vulnerable and human and make mistakes and learn and grow and model the way for others. Being curious and compassionate with themselves and with those around them.

Firepower Leadership abandons antiquated styles of managing organizations and encourages leaders to adopt the skills that connect us. Embracing a more feminine approach to leadership empowers leaders and employees to work together to solve problems that change organizations, communities, and the world.

You can embrace your Firepower Leadership Style by leaning into your feminine strengths of Compassion, Curiosity, and Collaboration.


Skill #1: Compassion

I think the world could use a little more compassion, especially with the major wolrd events in the last few years. From George Floyd to the Coronavirus pandemic to the war in Ukraine to the Great Resignation. People are burned out, they’re reliving trauma, and we’re just – tired.

As a Firepower Leader, you can practice compassion by being mindful of the perspectives and experiences of others. So many women – especially Black women – are putting on a brave face at work. Women are dealing with a lot, and they might not express it for fear of retribution.

As a Firepower Leader, you can model compassion for your colleagues and employees – not every leader will check in with their team to see how everyone is doing. Even if you don’t know exactly what each member of your team is dealing with right now, you know the general themes of burnout, trauma, grief, and demotivation that women in general are feeling. So have compassion for that, and encourage your fellow leaders to practice compassion. 

Along those lines, as a firepower leader, be willing to be vulnerable with others and let them be vulnerable with you. Not everyone will feel comfortable sharing what’s going on in their lives, but you can at least open the door for the conversation.

You can share how you’re feeling, what’s going on in your life, or something you’ve struggled with. I’ve seen this work well in teams where the leader says something like – “I’m logging off early today because I have to pick up my kids from school or take someone to the doctor” or something like that.

It shows that as a leader, you’re human, too! And it gives permission for the other members of your team to be vulnerable and share in a way where they feel safe to. This is not about forcing people to bring their whole selves to work if they don’t want to – it’s just opening the door, inviting them to the conversation, and having compassion whether they share or not.

Finally, be sure to consider the needs of your customers, employees, leaders, whoever you work with each day. Even if you don’t know their exact experiences, you can anticipate their needs, or at least respond to them.

So if an employee needs a more flexible work environment – as a firepower leader, you can help to create that for them. If someone needs to go part time or reduce their hours, how will you facilitate that?

Being a Firepower Leader isn’t always easy, but we’re losing a lot of talented women because organizations aren’t taking the time to listen to their needs and act on them. Not to mention the undercutting burden of knowing you’re not being paid as much as men. That’s a daily stress that makes it easy for women to leave if the organization isn’t meeting their needs.

Skill #2: Curiosity

And again, you might not know exactly what your employees need, which is why another tenet of Firepower Leadership is Curiosity. Curiosity is one of my favorite topics, and it’s also one of the core values in my life and in my business.

Curiosity is about asking questions to get to the root of problems, to understand ourselves and others better, and to challenge belief systems. Curiosity is the foundation for empathy and allows us to better understand and connect to the experiences and emotions of another person. It’s being willing to say “I don’t know, but I’ll learn.” 

And that’s so important when it comes to gender equity, anti-racism, any DEI work that you’re doing – on a personal level and in your organization. Curiosity allows you to detach from taking things personally or feeling shame or guilt, or feeling like a bad person.

It allows you to say “okay, I didn’t know that or I messed up, but I know I can learn and grow from this and do better next time.” And it’s also not a pass if you know better but aren’t doing better – so let me be clear about that!! 

To practice Curiosity, ask open-ended questions when giving feedback, challenging an idea, or getting to know your employees. Listen and be genuinely interested in what the other person has to say. Ask follow up questions to show that you care and you want to understand.

This is so important too, when it comes to providing critical feedback. If something went wrong, or an employee made a mistake, many leaders are quick to scold or berate employees. Especially women.

Studies show that women tend to receive more negative feedback or punitive actions when they make a mistake compared to men. So if you approach feedback from a place of curiosity, you can create a more equitable environment for women.

Speaking of which, curiosity allows you to find out how you can make your org a better place for women. When you are curious, you ask more questions. You listen to experiences. You dig into the data and what’s really happening in your organization.

When you’re curious, you can pay attention to that information and brainstorm ways to make things better. If the data shows that men are promoted at 4x the rate of women, get curious. Why is that happening? What processes or systems are allowing that? What biases are present? What are we teaching our managers or the leaders who make the decisions?

Curiosity is all about questioning the status quo, learning from what’s there, and putting plans in place to improve it.

Finally, never stop learning – about yourself and others. Read books or watch movies that involve characters who don’t look like you, or who have experiences that you can’t relate to. Learn from their experiences. Read non-fiction books by diverse authors so you can learn from many different perspectives, and not just from the shelves of white male authors, which perpetuate the patriarchal, masculine systems that keep women from achieving leadership roles.

And never stop learning about yourself – be introspective and curious when you start to feel things like shame, guilt, or fear around a topic like equity or inclusion. We all experience unconscious bias, and we all have fear around difficult conversations. It’s okay if something is challenging, and it’s okay to recognize that, but go deeper.

What’s coming up for you when you learn about anti-racism? What comes up for you when you experience a woman who is demonstrating more assertive behavior? Challenging your own beliefs and biases is part of being a curious, firepower leader.

Skill #3: Collaboration

The final tenet of Firepower Leadership is Collaboration. Women are natural collaborators. We crave connection and value our relationships, so this one should come easily for you! There are so many ways you can bring a spirit of collaboration to your work.

One way is to seek out the opinions of others. Gather diverse perspectives while working on a project, or working toward a bigger initiative. In the case of gender equity, it will be important to learn from DEI experts who know how to make the necessary improvements that your organization needs to become the workplace of choice for women. 

And along those lines – don’t be afraid to ask for help. People want to support you and see you thrive. Especially because I know the women I tend to attract to my community are always there to support others. When people know that about you, they will want to return the favor.

Asking for help also allows you to learn from someone else. You can reach out to a mentor or trusted advisor to work through a challenging employee situation, or you can ask for help in practicing your pay negotiation pitch or writing your promotion documentation. You don’t have to have all of the answers, and it never hurts to ask for help when you need it.  

One thing we need more of is women supporting one another. So often, I hear stories about women who finally make it to the top, then they see the women coming up behind them as threats, so they don’t help them advance – or worse – they actively sabotage their career. That happened to me early in my career.

That kind of thinking comes from a scarcity mindset. When you believe there is only one spot for a woman, or you think there isn’t enough room for everyone, that’s a scarcity mindset at work.

The truth is: there is plenty of opportunity for everyone, and your organization will be so much stronger when more women have the opportunity to lead. So get creative and find new ways to support each other.

The final thing I’ll say on collaboration is: Work together to coach and guide your employees instead of micromanaging or demanding. I think that says it all – but we all know the statistics and research that suggest people leave organizations because of their direct managers. So be a better manager and leader by collaborating with your employees instead of micromanaging them.

The Takeaway 

This is the essence of Firepower Leadership. Being bold enough to be yourself, and in doing so, pave the path for others to step into their boldness. Creating a ripple effect of strong, compassionate leaders. 

Leaders and organizations that embrace Firepower Leadership styles open the door for more women to step into leadership roles. And with more women leaders, the world would look a lot different.

Take action now: Take the free Firepower Leadership Styles Quiz to learn about your unique leadership style. From there, you’ll receive video lessons and audio trainings to help you embrace your leadership style and use it to advance to your next leadership role. Click here to take the free quiz now!

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