The most important advice I can give to future leaders is to be true to yourself and have confidence in your abilities. This is true for everyone but has particular importance for women.
The trap that often snares women as they rise in the ranks of a male-dominated business landscape is the loss of self-confidence. They begin to question their abilities and increasingly suppress the opinions that reflect their unique perspective as women. It is difficult to achieve lasting and fulfilling success when you’re playing a part that isn’t you.
It takes a great deal of self-confidence to trust that your knowledge in a given field makes your opinion an important one. It takes confidence to admit when you’ve made a mistake, to ask a question when you don’t understand and to express your point of view when you think it will further the discussion. A strong sense of confidence and the ability to listen and express your point of view clearly and concisely, but without arrogance, are central to strong leadership.
Doing all of this takes practice and a continued commitment. It’s easy to doubt your abilities, especially when trying to balance work and family commitments. One of the best ways to overcome self-doubt is to build a network of other women leaders who face similar issues. Together you can bolster one another when needed and share ways to prioritize life, not just prioritize work.
Confidence in who you are and in your role will help you acknowledge and support the team. Integrity, honesty, collaboration, directness and instinct are recognized, valued and do make a difference. You don’t need an agenda or to be the most important person in the room, and often this will be a big differentiator between you and your counterparts. You can be solution-oriented, looking for new ways to solve problems without being mired in maintaining the status quo. A different way of thinking and operating generates more ideas, and ideas lead to change and progress.
Most importantly, once you are able to present your true self with confidence in the workplace, you serve as a role model for other women trying to strike the same balance, ensuring that future female leaders will be equipped and positioned to tackle the challenges that come their way.