The burden of the glass ceiling remains an issue for women’s advancement but it has changed significantly over the past decade in terms of height and complexity. The glass ceiling is now just below the C-suite level – yet it still exists. Why?
Over half of my clients are women and what they often tell me is that they believe they lack “executive presence”. But, what does this mean? Being authentic? Speaking and standing for authority? As I see it, the women I coach have “executive presence” – they are authentic, competent, and dedicated.
The Executive Mindset
Competence and expertise matter, but successful business leaders aren’t always the smartest nor know the most about every subject at hand. What all great leaders have, however, is the ability to think strategically in a cross-functional way. And, be able to get down into the nitty-gritty of issues when necessary. Furthermore, the best leaders must constantly be promoting confidence in the business that is infectious. This enthusiasm must engage staff, suppliers, investors, and all other company stakeholders.
The point is, when coaching, it is not about telling women to be more authoritative or competent but developing a strategic mindset and a mission that constantly promotes the business to all those important to its success.
Breaking ‘The Ceiling’
In breaking today’s glass ceiling every woman should master two things:
1. Seamless Functional Movement
Women are thorough and detail-oriented. They work hard and diligently to get ahead. They focus on getting every detail correct and their final product bulletproof. This works well when moving up the corporate ladder but being too detail-oriented may hamper performance at the top echelon.
At the top level, a strategic, less-defined focus is required.
As a corporate coach, my goal is to have women master the leadership skill of going from the strategic, big-picture view to addressing ground-floor, detail-oriented issues and back in a seamless, effortless way.
2. Confidence vs. Risk Taking
Early in their careers, women are often talked over, ignored, or not taken seriously. As a result, they work hard at becoming self-confident. The flip side to confidence, many times, is an aversion to risk-taking.
I believe a key imperative to coaching women executives is mentoring them in the skill of effective and decisive resource allocation and risk management – the two pillars of successful strategic planning. Women must lead with their own unique approach and end the habit of comparing their performance to male role models that came before them.
Women are owning and managing more large, medium, and small businesses than ever before. They are as effective and successful as their male counterparts and mastering the skills of strategic functional thinking and risk management further strengthens their ability to thrive and succeed.