Being a leader and a woman for that fact, requires a lot from the feminine fabric. It goes against the grain but it is true to say that women are judged before we even speak. 80% of decisions made about a person are based on other people’s perception alone. This was what I gleamed from Eunice Nyala’s talk on developing a leadership style at SheHive Nairobi. Eunice’s entrance into the SheHive Nairobi was propitiously noticed. True to her mantra, ‘All the leaders making a lasting impression’ Eunice is a head turner with radiant skin who gracefully sashayed in heels and an African outfit ensemble on a lazy Sunday evening in Nairobi.
More often than not, as women we like to create mental barriers for ourselves. We sell ourselves short and let ourselves be held captive by our own narrow thinking. We may have perfected the art of holding ourselves ransom by trying to live by societal expectations. Most times the chains that prevent us from being free are more mental than physical. We need to recognize that people are different and capitalize on our weaknesses and strengths when developing our own unique leadership style. Eunice’s advice continues;
There is something new to learn every freaking minute. No one is an encyclopedia of knowledge. Stereotypes accentuate on how women tend to be chatterboxes but we have to stop talking to learn something new. Take a minute to learn something about and from your cleaner, gardener, or valet parking attendant. It’s unprecedented that the most overlooked sources are wells of inspirations.
Are you that lady boss, whose graceful entrance to a building commands attention and respect? Do people shush or scuffle to their desks when you walk in? Rather, do you walk in and Jane the office chatter box continues with her tête-à-tête. How you walk, conduct yourself and command attention dictates the respect you get from people around you.
Pay attention to women in leadership
The tides are changing and more women are taking up leadership roles. It’s time we evaluated and learned how those in leadership behave. Some of First Ladies of African countries, the Duchess of Cambridge, the Queens of the world are a few women of well-thought-of demeanor. Hats off to these ladies! You’ve got to research on them, emulate them, act out and from there acknowledge what makes you stand out.
Leadership is everywhere
We can choose to delve into the debate on whether leaders are born or made. However that’s a topic for another day, let’s not digress. Life provides each and every woman a leadership position 24/7 /365 days a year. If you doubt it then let me preempt. A mom is a leader at home. A teacher is a leader at school; you are the leader of your siblings and at the chama (Swahili for a women’s group) you could be the voice of reason. Seize these and many other opportunities and practice leadership skills and you will easy lead people. You can have an executive presence from the onset; you don’t have to wait for an elective position to be a leader.
Utilize the power of networking
Networking is formal opportunity bequeathed to us. This is where we get to share our competencies with people who may give us a hand. It’s a chance to expend the power of entrepreneurial and professional circle. Lonesome girls don’t perform well in professional and corporate workplace.
More importantly it’s where you could meet your next partner, client, mentor, friend, even hubby. However, things could get embarrassing when swimming in the murky waters of networking. There are four things to do in this event
- Be strategic about your networking event choice. Do your research and get know something about the attendees beforehand.
- Get to know people, what they do and better yet have their contacts. Always acknowledge the people you meet in the room.
- Plan your questions in advance and ask smart questions.
- Leave a lasting impression. If you want to be remembered, speak out for yourself and ask questions.
Dress like a leader
Work on your dress code. It’s one of the visuals that will be used to judge you. It’s been over emphasized and may sound cliché but be purposeful in your dressing and be conscious of what you wear. You can choose to identify an executive leader and try to borrow from their style. Lastly be authentic in your dress code and be mature in how you speak to your colleagues in order to earn their respect.
There is need for etiquette in everything we do in all aspects of our lives. It’s not one size fits all. All individuals have varied needs.
A parting shot from Eunice, “We admire people who have it. If you don’t have it, work on it. More importantly, work on your tone.”