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Photo courtesy of Richard Busch is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0
Photo courtesy of Richard Busch, licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

Through no fault of your own you may find yourself struggling, as a woman leader, to gain respect from people around you. This has less to do with you personally and more to do with the fact that your role as a leader goes against typical gender stereotypes.

This article, featuring Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook COO and Anna Maria Chavez, Girls Scout CEO, highlights the ways girls are labeled bossy when they demonstrate any of the leadership traits that are easily accepted in boys. Boys are the leaders; girls play supporting roles.

As a woman leader you are defying that stereotype and, as a result, some people are uncomfortable with you. Still your desire to be respected is normal and healthy.

Here are 5 things that can help in your efforts to gain more respect.

Believe In Yourself

You have to start here if you are going to be successful. You have to know that you are capable of doing your job and doing it well. Even if you’re a brand new leader you have to start from a place of believing in yourself.

You may feel compelled to prove yourself but I would challenge you to approach it from a place of helping people to see what you ALREADY know to be true about yourself. Trying to prove yourself is really about trying to prove you are enough. You have to start with knowing you are enough. When you do this, it changes everything about your experience as a leader.

Let Your Actions Speak Louder

Your actions have to speak louder than your words, in a positive way. Be willing to roll up your sleeves and do the grunt work with your team when it’s necessary. If you have a deadline and the rest of the team is working late, be right there with them doing whatever you can to help, even if it’s “not in your job description”.

Be careful here, though, that you do it from a place of desiring to support your team and not because you feel bad for them. Your team will sense the difference. If you are supporting them, you will gain their respect. If you feel bad for them and “want to make it up to them”, you run the risk of losing their respect instead. It’s a fine line but you will know when you’re doing it for the right reasons.

Show You Care

You may have been conditioned to be less nurturing in your leadership because that’s “not what good leaders do”. I would argue, however, that the best leaders put their natural gifts to use in their roles. The feminine quality of caring for others is innate to you as a woman and CAN work for you in your leadership.

Show your team you care about them outside of the work they do for you. Let them know they are more than just a cog in the wheel of your success. If you are a business owner, let your customers or clients know they’re not just a dollar sign to you. Genuinely caring for your team can go a long way in helping you gain respect.

Make the Hard Decision

Be willing to make the hard decisions and stick with them. By holding your ground, not stubbornly but rather with a fair amount of conviction, you will garner the respect of others.

Along with that, don’t be afraid to speak up when necessary. When defending a position or a decision, try not to armor up. Go into the conversation anchored in your conviction, as opposed to anchored in trying to prove yourself. If you try to justify or prove yourself you become defensive and you’ve already lost. Instead be confident in your decision and speak from that place. Everyone may not agree with you but I’m sure you will be respected for your conviction.

Own Your Mistakes

When you make a mistake own it and don’t blame others. Nothing causes a leader, male or female, to lose the respect of others faster than blame shifting. As the leader, the buck stops with you so take responsibility.

In addition, try to avoid explaining what went wrong. Even if the reasons are good, you trying to explain it will only sound like you’re making an excuse rather than accepting responsibility. Just accept it and move on and, as difficult as it will be, try your best to avoid beating yourself up when this happens (and it will) because that’s just counter productive all the way around.

Do these 5 things, and you will be well on your way to gaining the respect of the people around you. I can’t promise it will be easy but I know it will be worth it.

From my heart to yours,

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If you would like to learn more about how you can thrive as a leader and as a woman, leading without giving up what matters most to you, click here to schedule a complimentary call with me.

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