Women Entrepreneurs 101: Rules of Leadership: 10 ways to be influential as a woman

Being influential means that your position in an organization does not make you the leader of your organization. You "the leader" must make the position influential. You may not end up being influential if you have the right credentials, the right education or even the right experience. To be a successful entrepreneur you need to gain the influence in your organization and earn the right to become a leader.
Leadership is influence.
As women, we are already in a great place to start. We are mostly communicative, emotionally intelligent and compassionate. So where do we begin training for influence.
1. Start with making friends.
Making friends is the fundamental of increasing influence. You may never be successful in being of influence if you have not been able to gain the trust of people as friends.
Friendships are made. Never won.
2. Show genuine interest in other people and their lives
People can decipher a genuine concern from a fake one. If you are not the kind of a person who feels interested in other people’s lives and stories, it will be difficult for you to connect with them at a deeper, emotional level and you will not have an impact with your thoughts on them.
3. Help someone
Always lend a helping hand. Open up your network to other people to assume a helping role in the challenges of their lives.
4. Be honest and sincere
If it’s not from the heart, it will not have an impact. Be honest and sincere in your relationships. Give from the heart.
5. Communicate
As women, you are good at articulation of your thoughts already. Morph this into your biggest asset. Communication is not only about how you can influence other people to listen to you but also how you inspire them into the world of your values. For women, communication is perhaps our biggest asset for achieving daily leadership.
6. Set goals and achieve them
People respect focus. Set goals and achieve them. Do not promise something you cannot deliver and if you do fail to, apologize and keep trying. Credibility for women is even more important. In a world which is negatively biased towards our professional acumen, it is even more pertinent that you work towards achieving your goals and create a culture of perseverance for yourself and your team.
7. Listen
Listen more than talk. Always be present. When you listen, it opens up inroads into the psyche of the person talking to you . Understand where people are coming from, their motivation and what the most important driver for their lives is. This will help you communicate with them better and influence their careers and team goals more objectively.
8. Be Accessible
Be available for your teams. Be available for your network. However successful you are, your influence is about people who are influenced by you and not your personality in isolation.
9. Network
Meet and know people. Contribute. Be a part of like-minded formal groups. Create change.
10. Mentor
Mentorship is a two way process. You learn from your mentees and your mentees educate and embrace your experience. Mentor your team. Tell them about your experiences. Have them ask you questions and guide their beliefs. Help evolve their lives by finding time to guide their career paths and learning process.
If as a leader you do not possess leverage or influence, you will end up being ineffective.For that you will require that you have a buy in from your teams and therefore create a situation where people don’t agree with you just because their paychecks depend upon you. They must be participatory because you can influence them in that manner. And they believe in you.

Women Entrepreneurs 101: How to be a Leader ( Part One)

Earlier this year, I was on a panel of several women leaders from across the globe and the conversation was about what challenges we face in our work lives to assert ourselves. Not surprising was the fact that though we were so culturally diverse from each other; yet the challenges faced were almost the same, varied by only the degree of impact.  
Yes, the challenges are immensely daunting. Yet, I am of the belief that we need to use our feminine powers at work.
Successful women ask for what they want. Good work does not always guarantee success. We have to learn to assess our leadership skills and affirm our focus towards being vocal and advocating on our own behalf.

How many times have you been asked to chair an event and you have said no when you wanted to say yes. How many times have you wanted to take a direction with your business and though you know you are right in your assessment; you have failed to get an affirmation from your business partners who are happy with status quo.
How many times have you been talked down in meetings even when you are the only person in the meeting with any expertise on the topic.
If we do not learn to assert ourselves; we will never be an important participant in any decision making process at any time.
Women who achieve leadership status always challenge beliefs. We ask for what we want. We are firm. We don’t accept what is unacceptable. We maneuver our business with power.
 We are not consensus leaders. We are conviction leaders.

Today, in corporate America, at the lowest levels, more than half of the employees in organizations are female. As you move to each successively higher level in the organization, the number of women steadily shrinks. At the CEO level, worldwide, there are only 3% to 4% who are women.
However, the number and economic contributions of women-owned firms continue to grow. The rate of growth in the number of women-owned enterprises over the past 16 years remains higher than the national average. Between 1997 and 2013, the number of women-owned firms is growing at 1½ times the national average.
We must understand that there is indeed a huge difference between the experience, typology, motives and characteristics of female entrepreneurs when compared to male entrepreneurs.
Despite the advances, there still exists a huge gap between men and women economically, politically and socially. Given the fact that men and women experience their enterprises differently, it is essential to differentiate the principles of leadership based on the criteria of how they use strategies and organizational structures.
Men entrepreneurs are usually motivated by the desire to control their own destiny whereas women tend to be motivated by a need of independence and achievement as a result of the frustration they feel by not being able to perform at work at the level they know they would. Occupationally, men tend to be more competitive in their business management skills and women usually have limited in their skills here. For women more than men, the decision of starting a new enterprise is usually related with the need or flexibility of hours or location – the kind of independence that allows them to conciliate family needs and childcare.
The decision to become women entrepreneurs seems to be influenced by several factors; primary being
a.    The entrepreneurs’ background – including aspects that have impact on motivations and perceptions, such as knowledge and skills.
b.   Previous jobs-influencing the location, nature and path of the new enterprise.
c.    Other factors like availability of risk capital, economic conditions, mentors or advisors, availability of personnel / support services and access to customers.
d.   Inability to re-join workforce after a break in career.

However, before we assess the leadership principles for women (in subsequent parts to this blog); let us eliminate some leadership fables

1.   Leading and managing are not the same thing. Leadership is about influencing people to follow and management focuses on maintaining systems and processes.
2.   All salespeople and entrepreneurs are not leaders.  You can persuade people for a moment by closing a sale; but if you can hold no long term influence on them then you are not a leader
3.   People who have knowledge and intelligence or being the first ones to do something are not always the leaders. You can be a brilliant research scientist with high IQ but that does not mean you are a leader.

Bottom line: You need to have people intentionally following your vision and following your lead or acting on your vision to be a leader.

How do we get that to happen? This and more in subsequent sequels to this blog. 



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