How Companies Can Support Women By Developing Solid Women Leadership

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Women comprise less than one-third of the workforce, especially in middle management and above, although they are as qualified as their male counterparts.

Women leadership programs can help promote diversity and inclusion and develop women leaders to lead themselves, lead others, and lead the business.

Such programs are designed to enable women leaders to build an executive presence, navigate uncertainty in the industry successfully, balance the demands of personal and professional responsibilities, innovate, prioritize business needs, and drive positive growth.

While many of the topics apply to men, too (sometimes more so), covering these problem areas individually from the women’s perspective, with the cohort of other women leaders across the organization, builds a camaraderie and support system that extends beyond the program.

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Here are 8 focus areas organizations need to cover for an effective push towards women leadership.

1. Develop persuasion skills.

The ability to persuade people towards a win-win situation is a key leadership skill. It involves learning to gain agreement from peers, seniors, and juniors by directly communicating with them.

This topic includes understanding concepts like pushing and pulling when influencing others, affecting others' behavior in a time-sensitive manner, and achieving objectives by using techniques to swing others into action.

2. Develop influencing skills.

A true leader must have the ability to influence others. To do that effectively, they must understand the dynamics of persuasive communication, leverage data, and information to influence effectively and influence without using authority.

Robert Cialdini’s principles from his book, Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion, identifies six ways that people are consistently and automatically persuaded: reciprocity, scarcity, liking, authority, social proof, and commitment/consistency.

3. Build a business acumen.

Another focus area for senior leadership is sharpening the business acumen.

This involves envisioning the big picture of the business, interpreting and analyzing financial statements, appreciating the interconnectedness of various business decisions and their impact on financial outcomes, and applying strategic thinking and execution principles in their individual focus areas.

4. Thinking strategically.

Strategic thinking is a fundamental skill that all leaders must have.

For leaders, it's important to understand relationships among the different parts of the business model, identify hypotheses, assumptions, and risks for the business, find ways to add value or reduce cost, and brainstorm market disruption strategies.

These expectations are now just as relevant at the senior levels and further down the hierarchy, as well.

5. Manage teams.

You are as good as your team, so it's imperative to be a great people manager.

The skill to identifying the highs and lows of team performance, setting practical goals, and developing key performance indicators to track individual performance of team members, coaching to uncover and fix performance gaps are critical to master.

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6. Build trust.

There's enough precedence to know that a successful leader must have the ability to build trusting relationships, internally with the people they work with, and externally with partners and customers.

Under this section, we work on understanding the business impact of a lack of trust and learn to foster open dialogue and transparency in conversations.

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7. Understanding the comfort zone.

Growth happens outside the comfort zone.

You can consciously develop crucial leadership skills to identify who and what defines an individual’s comfort zone, recognize and appreciate the impact of working out of it, self-inquiry to find ways to challenge the status quo and ignite a personal drive to excel.

8. Improve networking skills.

Networking skills are crucial to have as you climb up the ladder. You highlight and appreciate the advantages and relevance of networking in the context of your role.

It becomes vital to understand the dynamics of communication specific to networking, using a compelling follow-up to maintain active contacts and connections and creating your own personal and professional network.

The above-mentioned leadership skills apply to all leaders.

However, if we are to fill the gender gap rapidly especially at the senior levels, running such programs to enhance women leadership regularly is mandatory.

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Bhavna Dalal is a master certified executive coach MCC ICF, speaker, and author of "Checkmate Office Politics" who helps people develop their leadership skills, such as executive presence, strategic thinking, influencing, and networking. To learn more about her work, visit her website or follow her on LinkedIn.

This article was originally published at Forbes India. Reprinted with permission from the author.