Leadership as a term is universal and making it a gender issue would not be fair. As a leader, one would have to exhibit basic qualities of courage, determination, pragmatism, perseverance, ability to take people along, coach and influence, ability to do the tight-rope balance at critical times and much more. Perhaps due to the societal upbringing, balance and collaboration come automatically to most women, starting with a balance between parents and in-laws, family and self, professional and mother - what it takes is a willing mind and an honest soul to make a difference in the lives of people around. Beyond the usual association of charisma and vision, with leadership, there is an aspect of adaptability; you cannot bring in change as a leader without adapting or being sensitive to the culture around. As research studies point out, women find it easier to adapt to different cultures.
"Not everyone is a born leader; rather most are not, yet through life experiences, openness to feedback and willingness to improve, they are catapulted to leadership"
Not everyone is a born leader; rather most are not, yet through life experiences, openness to feedback and willingness to improve, they are catapulted to leadership. You become a leader not when you are in a position of power, you become a leader when with or without position, you have the power to influence the lives around you and they are all rooting for your success. In my journey, there have been situations when both the career growth cycle and family cycle needed urgent and immediate attention. In those moments of 'what should I do?" the inner voice has guided me to think 'what do I really want? Am I willing to give up one joy of life for the other?' The answer was NO. So, I moved on to take challenges head on, with a promise to not keep unrealistic expectations from life.
Women in Workplace
Usual top qualities associated with a woman in the workplace are multi-tasking, balanced collaborative outlook, sensitive approach, emotional intelligence, organized and planned, empathy and deep listening skills. There is an aspect of Indian culture here. As per Hofstede's model which researched the cultural dimensions in various countries, India is considered a masculine country with a score of 56 on this dimension of Masculinity vs. Femininity (MAS). This indicates that the Indian society is majorly driven by achievements, success and competitive spirit, which are perceived to be masculine attributes. Women in responsible positions do possess these attributes and also the 'perceived' feminine qualities of emotional drive, relationship-building, intuition.
But unfortunately, the number of women as we go up the ladder, at the board level, is abysmally low. "In India, women make up 42 percent of new graduates, but only 24 percent entry-level professionals. Of these, about 19 percent reach senior-level management roles. Women hold only 7.7 percent board seats and just 2.7 percent of board chairs" (Financial Express, Aug 14, 2017). These scenarios can be considerably changed with the light of education that will automatically illuminate the path to a better tomorrow, giving everyone equal opportunities to excel. I would urge everyone to share their wisdom with those that can benefit from it, help create a better and more inclusive world. Before the professional world beckons, it is educational sector which is like a window providing the world view. This sector makes human beings as against a product or a service.
Piece of Advice
You might have to adapt to situations, but that does not mean you have to lose your uniqueness and the strength of your natural style, do not get into destructive escapism. In moments of difficulty, listen to the inner voice of wisdom. Life throws its own googlies at you, couple of ducks are fine as long there are multiple sixers to cherish, you can't win every time. Take the help of your Mentor/s, who you have met and cherished during your journey, who understand your strengths as well as weaknesses and are always there to offer guidance, remember even CEOs have coaches. The path to any change is never easy, but if you are committed and determined to follow it, everything falls in place. If you are a working woman and a hands-on mother both (which many of us are), do not be on a guilt trip always. The fact that you are balancing both is a feat in itself. No need to prove to anyone that you are a superwoman - you ARE ONE. Remember, nothing in the world is perfect. The journey to achieve perfection is the one to be enjoyed.