We’ll be the first to admit that no two women are the same. Women have diverse personalities, strengths and weaknesses. Not all women are mothers, and not all women are nurturing and maternal. Some women are tough as nails, others are soft-spoken. Some women prefer working on teams, others enjoy independent work. However, when it comes to traditionally ‘feminine’ characteristics, a lot of them apply just as much in the boardroom as they do at a PTA meeting. Here are some ‘feminine’ characteristics that make women (and men, for that matter!) great leaders.
1. they value work-life balance
Women are more likely to be responsible for managing their household, even if they have a partner and both work full-time. According to a recent study, Canadian women spend 50% more time on household chores than men. As a result, women tend to highly-value work-life balance. That’s a characteristic that everyone on their teams can benefit from. Workplaces that emphasize the importance of work-life balance are healthier and happier. And they experience lower turnover and high employee engagement to boot.
2. they’re great listeners
When you’re a woman, learning how to be a good listener is an essential life skill. That’s especially true if you’re a professional working woman climbing into the upper echelons of leadership. Even in today’s day and age, there are some people who judge outspoken women as ‘bossy,’ ‘bitchy’ or ‘shrill.’ So women have learned to be great listeners, to listen for cues when to speak up. And that ability to listen closely and read the room is a highly transferable skill that marks a good leader.
3. they’ve been through the ranks
Women are rarely dropped into leadership roles with no experience; they typically have to work harder to ‘earn’ their promotions. Women who make it into leadership positions have usually clawed their way up the ranks through hard work and determination. They know what their employees are experiencing from their first-hand experience. That makes them sympathetic to what employees go through as well as knowledgeable about their day-to-day work. And that’s invaluable when managing a team.
4. they are expert multi-taskers
Ask any mom what her best quality is and multi-tasking will probably be high on her list. When you need to balance a packed work schedule, picking the kids up from school, making dinner, and maybe even working in a little time for yourself before getting some sleep, you learn how to multitask and get things done. And yes, we know not all women are mothers! But the majority are, and most of them work outside the home. And even if you disregard motherhood, women often carry other personal responsibilities such as caring for ageing parents or managing their household chores. Women excel at wearing many hats.
5. they excel when presented with challenges
Women are natural problem solvers. When they’re presented with a challenge, they immediately start looking for a solution. After all, when you have 5 million things to do at work, and another 5 million things to handle at home, you get used to quickly solving a problem and moving on to the next one. You don’t have time to dwell. Whether it’s a kid with a lost sock, or employee struggling with a deadline, you can count on women to be solutions oriented and get stuff done, even under pressure.
6. they’re cool in crisis situations
Women have to juggle a million little responsibilities at all times. That makes them great to have around in a crisis situation. Women are accustomed to dealing with problems piling up at work and home so they don’t get easily rattled, no matter how much is on their plate. That makes them ideal to have around when there’s a crisis at work. They’re able to remain cool, collected and focused on the situation at hand, even when stress is at its peak.
7. they’re adaptable
Women are experts at being chameleons. They know how to shift their tone and dynamic to the setting and situation. Whether they’re reasoning with an unruly toddler about to burst into a tantrum, or conveying their expertise and authority in a board room meeting, women know how to read the room and adjust their tone and demeanour to match. That’s an invaluable job skill with many applications for women at all levels of their career.
8. they communicate like pros
Women are born communicators. If you’re the only woman in the room at work (which has probably happened to most women at some point!) you need to be able to speak up and clearly and simply communicate your thoughts and perspective to a group of people who are different from you and might not necessarily understand where you’re coming from. That’s the mark of a great communicator. Like any relationship, the boss-employee relationship relies on strong communication.
9. they have high emotional intelligence
A lot of the characteristics traditionally associated with women such as nurturing, communication, empathy and listening are also associated with having high emotional intelligence. Emotional intelligence (or EQ) is the ability to relate to others and form connections. Over the last decade or so, EQ has become a top trait we look for in leaders. In the past, we expected leaders to be calculated, strategic and decisive (all traits associated with men). Today, we want charismatic leaders who understand people. And that’s something most women bring in spades.