How to let your inner leader out

Many women feel reluctant to step into leadership positions. Some feel unqualified, or the someone else, usually a man, is better qualified. Sometimes their perfectionism kicks in, leaving them afraid of making mistakes.

But here’s an empowering truth: women are called to be leaders in the same way men are. If you are confident and assertive, you can be a leader. If you are quiet and unassuming, you can be a leader.

There is no one right way to be a leader. Whatever field you work in, whatever talents and personality you have — you can be a leader.

Here are some quotes from some of the best women leaders in history to help inspire you.

What’s leadership?

Lisa Cash Hanson, CEO of infant pillow maker Snuggwugg, defines leadership as “the ability to guide others without force into a direction or decision that leaves them still feeling empowered and accomplished.”

Pepsi’s CEO Indra Nooyi admits what everyone already thinks that real leadership is hard to define. But for her, it’s all about the ability to inspire people. She said, “If you can get people to follow you to the ends of the earth, you are a great leader.”

‘What if I don’t feel like a leader?’

Leadership skills can be taught, caught and developed. You don’t have to be born with specific traits in order to become a leader.

An expert in leadership, Dr Susan Madsen, who teaches Leadership and Ethics at Utah Valley University, says: “Leaders are not just born. Sure, some people are born with strong competencies and strengths for leading in certain situations, but it is very clear that leadership can also be developed. That means everyone can strengthen their skills and abilities to lead and influence.”

How to become a better leader

• Don’t be afraid to take risks and make mistakes.

If you want all circumstances to line up before you actually step out and do something risky, ask for a salary raise or vie for a leadership position, you will never, ever get anything done. This is the formula for a lot of frustration and regret in life.

“If you’re not making some notable mistakes along the way, you’re certainly not taking enough business and career chances,” says Sallie Krawcheck, CEO and Co-Founder of Ellevest, an online investing company for women. Their goal: to close the gender investing gap.

Here’s what Huffington Post’s Arianna Huffington said about failure and success: “We need to accept that we don’t always make the right decisions, that we’ll screw up royally sometimes. Understand that failure is not the opposite of success, it’s part of success.”

2. Make criticism — in whatever form — your friend

Welcome criticism, whether it’s said constructively, personally, cuttingly or kindly. Take the truth that you know in your gut, and reject whatever’s not true that’s said to you.

Hillary Clinton, who needs no introduction, said: “Take criticism seriously, but not personally. If there is truth or merit in the criticism, try to learn from it. Otherwise, let it roll right off you.”

3. Value your team — make their success your success

“The way to achieve your own success is to be willing to help somebody else get it first,” says author and lawyer Iyanla Vanzant. As a leader, you won’t be coming in first. You have got to be perfectly okay with this.

And why? Because the success of your team, individually and collectively, is your success. When the people you lead hit their creative stride, become top performers and end up loving what they’re doing in the process, you’ve got it made.

It may seem counterintuitive, but it’s not. Learn early that leadership is as much about service as it is about inspiration.

4. Share your passion

This is one of Oprah’s secrets to success as a leader. She said, “Passion is energy. Feel the power that comes from focusing on what excites you.”

When you’re “meh” about work, guess what? Your team will be too.

This means self-care, and making sure you get enough rest and don’t burn out so that you can keep your passion alive.

5. Don’t get stuck in any place, no matter how good it is

Don’t ever stop growing. Your personal growth matters, including your character, professionally speaking, as a partner and mother, friend.

One of the vice presidents for cosmetics giant Revlon, Pam Alabaster, says, “Continuous learning leads to continuous improvement. Commit yourself to advancing your knowledge, skills, and expertise. The business environment is quickly changing, and your understanding of the leading practices, thinking, and emerging tools will help you manage for better results. Be a lifelong student.”

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