Women in the Boardroom: Leveraging Natural Abilities for Leadership

When it comes to women in senior positions, there are plenty; but upon examination of the boardrooms of Fortune 500 companies, there’s an obvious void. In fact, according to a GMI Ratings Survey, 2013 Women on Boards, the percentage of women holding board positions in the U.S. has risen 1.9 percent since 2009. And, while that may sound good, there was only a total of 16.9% of board seats dedicated to women in 2013 versus 16.6% the year prior. The question is why.

Is it fair to blame it on the boys’ club…this persistent belief that men simply don’t get the value a woman offers at the conference table, and do whatever they can to keep the testosterone levels high? This as a factor probably has its place, but it’s likely not the whole story. Regardless, there is one thing for certain in today’s world: A call for change is being made. In fact, if you search the phrase ‘women in the boardroom,’ there are 8.5 million results, and almost the entirety of the first 3 or 4 pages are articles calling it a problem while insisting on greater equality.

Women, then, must be prepared to assume these roles when the opportunity presents. And, according to an in-depth study by Zenger|Folkman, the foremost authority in strengths-based leadership development, it just so happens that women are more effective leaders than their male counterparts. As revealed in A Study in Leadership: Women do it Better than Men, women are rated more positively on 12 of 16 characteristics most needed to be an effective leader.

  1. Takes initiative—Assume responsibility for facing issues and solving problems.
  2. Practices self-development—Take the necessary steps to grow your character or abilities through available resources.
  3. Displays high integrity and honesty—Stay true to your morals, beliefs, and authentic self regardless of the pressures in business.
  4. Drives for results—Do everything you can to meet and exceed your goals and commitments.
  5. Develops others—Be willing to share your time and effort to mentor others in a way that will impart your skill and experiences to help them grow.
  6. Inspires and motivates others—Motivate others with a positive energy that pushes them to meet their personal goals and commitments.
  7. Builds relationships—Bring enough personal connection into the workplace to create trusting partnerships with those around you.
  8. Collaboration and teamwork—Promote teamwork, and champion efforts and environments that further it.
  9. Establishes stretch goals—Create commitments that are continuous and encourage ongoing growth and learning.
  10. Champions change—Support change and create an environment that is open to and accepting of positive change.
  11. Solves problems and analyzes issues—Systematically evaluate all the information and identify patterns in the data to create useful solutions.
  12. Communicates powerfully and prolifically—Communicate clearly and concisely using channels creatively to ensure each team member is reached and understands.

Women have a natural propensity toward these characteristics. That’s a big deal thanks to a transition in management style away from the take-control approach of 10 to 20 years ago to one that emphasizes collaboration and leading by example. So, it’s fairly easy to see how women, by focusing their efforts on improving these 12 characteristics have better chances of making it into, and succeeding within, the walls of the boardroom.