Celebrate female leadership on Women’s Day, 08 March, as leaders in business
By Livinia Champion – I am a sister, sister-in-law, mother, mother-in-law, wife, a manager and a leader. Being a leader is therefore but one of the many roles that I play in my day-to-day activities and I draw a lot of strength from my family who fully supports me in my endeavors. I have a lot of respect for women, especially mothers who work, as I understand the challenges of the duality of this role. However, I have always maintained that it is easier to work than to stay at home: at work people at least need to pretend that they listen to you while at home, nobody pays any attention, neither the dogs nor the children…With that said, it is important to realize that you as a woman already possess leadership characteristics and skills that can be used successfully in a work environment.
To me a leader is the person who holds up the vision of what needs to be reached and then encourage and empower her team to reach those goals. I have often told my children that figuratively speaking, we (their dad and I) walked in front of them when they were small but as they grew up, we started moving backwards, until eventually they are the ones who walk in front and we support, love and encourage them from behind. In leadership, there is also a constant dance between leading from the front and leading from the back and it is essential to recognize when you are required to play a certain type of leadership role. I therefore see a lot of parallels between the leadership role necessary at work and the leadership role played at home and I want to share my insights:
Leadership characteristic # 1: Providing a vision, setting goals
More often than not, children are not very keen on learning as they would rather want to relax in front of the TV or computer, than sitting behind books, studying for exams. At times like these, you as the parent need to provide the vision and set the goals to show them why they need to study. This is exactly what is required from you as a leader at work – show and share the vision of what you want to achieve!
Leadership characteristic # 2: Motivating your team
While you provide the vision and set the goals for your children`s studies, you also need to motivate them. School studies are a long-term exercise, culminating in the matric exam. You therefore need to motivate your children for 12 years, through whichever method is most successful, in order for them to put forth their best efforts so that they have the luxury of choices at the end of their school career. If you are able to motivate your teenagers continuously, motivating a diverse group of resources at work is child`s play!
Leadership characteristic # 3: Coaching and empowering
You would not let your toddler use the stove, but through training and coaching you would feel comfortable to let your teenager make dinner on a hot stove. Likewise, you need to make sure that your team are coached, mentored and empowered to handle certain, sometimes difficult, situations.
In order to navigate the challenges of motherhood and raise well-adjusted, happy citizens of the world, you ought to have certain skills. Likewise, if you want to have a high-performing team at work, you require certain skills to unlock the potential of your team. I have highlighted just a couple of requisite skills, which is by no means a definitive list, but shows how you can apply the skills that you already possess by virtue of being a mother, to your work environment.
Skill 1: Communication
Any parent will know how important it is to communicate with your children – from when they are small and constantly asking `why?` right through adolescence when they do not share any experiences with you. Children always need to know the reason for your decisions, similar to what is required in a work situation. Except if you are an autocratic leader, you cannot make a decision and say, like you sometimes want to do, `because I say so!` Furthermore, you constantly need to know what children, as with your team at work, are thinking, so that you know how to lead them in situations. Constant communication is therefore critical and cannot be emphasized enough.
Skill 2: Staying calm in a crisis situation
A mother whose child cut her finger or who broke her arm, knows how extremely important it is to stay calm in a crisis situation. Staying calm will help you to judge the situation properly and make the right decisions – a skill that is also required in the workplace.
Skill 3: Prioritization
You would want to buy all those brand-name clothing for your children but there is a sport tour coming up – so what do you do? Yes, you need to prioritize and decide on what is more important. This is a skill that can be directly transposed to your work environment because a leader at work needs to know what to prioritize on in order to reach the business goals.
So women and especially mothers, you are a leader!
Livinia Champion is the Head of the IT Project Management office at Standard Bank Namibia.