No doubt by now you’re familiar with the following: women tend to wait to apply for promotional roles until they are 100% ready, whereas men jump in when they are just 60% ready.
This article can help you to accelerate your career if you know you’ve got talent, have the desire to do more with your career, yet don’t feel like you’re progressing at quite the right rate.
While times are changing, the bad news is that ‘think manager, think male’ still prevails. ….. and it’s interfering with your ambition and your career development.
How? The need to display dominance is associated with leadership and traditionally seen as a male attribute. Where women express dominance directly, they are seen as unlikeable, and are less likely to be hired. Women who put themselves forward for promotional opportunities may be seen as ‘pushy’ or ‘aggressive’, while men are seen as ‘go-getters’ and ‘straight shooters’ when they do.
Even where male and female leaders are assessed as having the same leadership capability, men receive higher ratings for performance and potential. Women receive less feedback on their leadership, even though, when they do, they are more likely to adapt their behaviour.
Women tend to attribute setbacks to themselves eg, ‘I knew I wasn’t good enough’, whereas men attribute setbacks externally, eg ‘this is a tough job’. This is flipped for success, where women tend to attribute success to external factors like luck and men to their own capabilities.
Women must successfully negotiate a minefield of expectations across both female and male characteristics to be seen as effective leaders, and the degree of vigilance and attention to their impact on others is high. So, women who are ambitious and want to lead are often caught in the ‘damned if you do, doomed if you don’t’ trap, between the need to be competent and assertive to be respected as organizational leaders, but also warm and nurturing to enact their ‘appropriate’ social role.
And despite the increase in women at the top, there’s still a lack of female role models, which is a real problem, because ‘you can’t be what you can’t see’.
All of these things feed insecurity and fear of failure, and reduce motivation to lead, which is important for being noticed as having leadership potential and helping you attain leadership roles. People high in motivation to lead identify strongly with leading and are intrinsically motivated to lead. Women tend to have a lower motivation to lead, and this shows up early in careers (actually, in girls still at school).
To reverse all of the above, and set your sights on making it to the top, you need to increase your confidence in your own leadership identity, and one way to do this is by identifying concrete role models. Role models help increase feelings of self-efficacy in leadership, the development of your identity as a leader, and increase your positive feelings about being a leader. Creating a strong, confident story-line that is congruent with your own values, and having a presence that holds attention, are critical to succeeding in leadership roles, and work on these will help you flex your career muscles.
Here’s a mini boot camp to accelerate your leadership career:
- Find yourself role models and exemplars of leadership – analyze what they do, how they do it, and why it appeals to you.
- Do some self-analysis (no, you don’t need a couch for that – this is a boot camp after all!) and be clear about your sense of identity, your values and your leadership purpose. Why do you want to lead? Be brave. Dream big.
- Having done 1 and 2, write your own narrative about the leader you want to be – script it, edit it, refine it, use it! And repeat.
- Reverse your attributions: when things go well, practice attributing your success to your own capabilities, eg, ‘my ability to remain calm under pressure helped us get through this crisis’. Attribute setbacks externally, eg, ‘this is a tough project’.
- Build a strong support team, your own personal board of advisors. Your board should include guides, advisors, mentors, career advisors, and career guides as well as role models; they’ll help you with the above four steps.
Or sign up to my Women in Leadership Accelerator program and really power your career.