It’s impossible to respect, value and admire great leadership if you can’t identify what makes a leader great. Because of this, the identity crisis I have written about that exists in today’s workplace is something that women leaders in particular have been facing for much too long. While the tide is changing and more women are being elevated into leadership roles, there is still much work to do. As of July 2013, there were only 19 female elected presidents and prime ministers in power around the globe. In the business world, women currently hold only 4.6 percent of Fortune 500 CEO positions and the same percentage of Fortune 1000 CEO positions. As women continue their upward trajectory in the business world, they have yet to be fully appreciated for the unique qualities and abilities they bring to the workplace.
Like many who grow up with a Hispanic upbringing, I was surrounded by strong-willed, hardworking and purpose-driven women. It is through their leadership that the traditions, values and legacy of our family have been upheld. My grandmother, mother, wife, and sister-in-law all possess natural leadership skills and they are masters of opportunity management – seamlessly keeping us all in check while running the family household and at the same time supporting our family businesses. They have taught me that a woman’s instincts and emotional intelligence can be off the chart. They seamlessly manage crisis and change and are turnaround experts – sensing and neutralizing any signs of danger well before it invades our path. It is because of the women in our family that we are well-organized, full of love, spiritually aligned and well-balanced. We are by no means a perfect family, but we are a modern family who embraces traditions even as we adapt to changing times.
It can be difficult for a man to understand how women think, act and innovate unless he has been closely influenced by the women in his life. I’ve learned that women may process things differently and in their own terms. Fortunately for me, I’ve been influenced by great women who made me appreciate their approach towards leadership. I’ve grown to understand their decision-making processes, the dynamics and subtleties of their personality and style, and other special character qualities that women possess.
The best women leaders I know have circular vision that enables them to be well-rounded people. For example, they have their finger on the pulse of the culture and can talk to you about the latest pop-culture news – but then easily switch gears to give you their perspective on what is taking place on Wall Street. Women leaders seeking a chance to be significant see the world through a lens of opportunity; they are especially in search of those opportunities previously unseen (perhaps this is why the women I know enjoy a good treasure hunt). My experiences have taught me that great women make it a point to teach men about women.
I’ve seen women run the show for years both at home and in the workplace, which has enabled me to recognize behavior patterns and see the value behind their way of doing things. These women are master multi-taskers and highly collaborative (though not afraid to get territorial to protect their domain). They enjoy their own space to test themselves and find their own rhythm. These women leaders are like scientists: many of them want to make new discoveries or solve for problems where others have failed. The women leaders I’ve been around don’t stop pursuing until the job gets done. This is why I believe they are good collaborative leaders – not afraid of trial and error as long as they continue to build the resource infrastructure around them that gets them closer towards accomplishing their goals. As one of my women mentors told me, “Without enough of the right resources around me, I will not risk the outcome. I know the resources I need to get the job done right. I’d rather be patient than foolish.”
The women leaders I know invest in themselves and become knowledge seekers. They are not afraid to ask questions when given a safe platform to express themselves. For example, during my keynote and conference appearances – more often than not – it is the women who ask me the most questions and they are also more inspired to adopt new ideas and ideals. Though extremely curious, it’s often balanced with a bit of skepticism – after all, they don’t want to be fooled or taken advantage of. My experiences have taught me that women leaders need to trust a person before they will endorse what they have to say. Many just want to know that there is legitimacy behind the opportunity.