To Lead, Combine Team-Building with “Diplomatic” Assertiveness

Leadership is about building a team in a way that fosters collaboration and enthusiasm toward a goal that everyone can take pride in. Studies show that most women tend to have a more collaborative, intuitive, and nurturing leadership style compared to men, who favor a top-down, linear, and task-oriented approach.

In fact, a good leader must have both. The key for women is pairing a team-oriented style with the right kind of assertiveness. By the right kind of assertiveness, I do not mean aggressiveness. I mean being able to express thoughts, beliefs, and feelings in a confident way to facilitate the communication of ideas. A lot of women believe that emulating masculine traits is the answer. In fact, it is not. If something does not come naturally, it is not as effective in conveying the point.

That said, here are few tips that have helped me be “diplomatically” assertive in the workplace:

  • Be confident—stand up for your views, but also respect those of others. Allow them to disagree, and hear them out. This is not a sign of weakness. Considering different perspectives is essential to smart decision-making.
  • Be direct and honest with your team, no matter how hard it may be. Constructive criticism is essential to improvement. Do not be stingy with praise, even in the face of setbacks. It is important to be encouraging in order to elicit enthusiastic effort from your team.
  • Accept responsibility for your team’s mistakes rather than laying blame on others. Apologize, figure out what went wrong, and move on. For women, especially, it is easy to undercut achievements by focusing excessively on failures.
  • Invest in your team’s workplace happiness. Ask questions such as, “What do you need to make your job easier?” Frame solutions to a problem as a way to make the person’s experience better by reducing stress and conflict at work.

I recognize there is no “one size fits all.” Ultimately, it comes down to knowing yourself, developing your own leadership style, and learning how to adapt it to different situations.