Female Leaders – Our time is now!

Jane Kenyon is a serial entrepreneur, speaker, coach and founder of The Well Heeled Divas Ltd.

“In the past 16 years I have been involved in 9 businesses all focused in the business to business sector including consultancy, training, lifestyle management, IT, PR and networking. I have made money and lost it all twice, got myself embroiled in a few partnership deals I should never have touched and experienced some major highs selling businesses and acquiring others. But I have never lost my passion for business.”

“In 2007 I founded the Well Heeled Divas, an organisation focused on female empowerment with a pretty big vision – to inspire 1 million women to step up to entrepreneurship, leadership and wealth contribution, who in turn, will inspire 1 million young girls to raise their aspirations, believe in themselves and shine.”

Each month Jane shares her views on our business theme. This month Jane tells us why the time is now for female leaders..

How many great leaders can you name that are female??

In every book on leadership the greats mentioned are male but in my opinion, the world is now ready for women to step up and be counted. The challenges we now face in both the corporate and business world demand a more female approach to leadership but what do I mean?

Business today is about influence, not muscle; autonomy, not control; co-operation, not competition; relationships, not hard sell and values not ego. The ethos of top down, command and control is over, leaders need to be more inclusive, receptive and inspirational if they expect to gain the respect of the intelligent, qualified and professional workforce of today. When you consider the key elements of competitive advantage in most organisations are:
1. Recruiting and retaining talent
2. Delivering exceptional customer service
3. Creating and sustaining a consistent brand

It is not hard to see how imperative people skills are and this is an area that women tend to excel in as it taps into our natural skillset along with nurturing relationships, getting buy in, creativity, communications, service delivery and negotiation. But by far the area that differentiates us most is our need to lead by our values. It has to be important to us or we lose interest and our positioning. We need to feel that we are making a difference, that our input counts . It is not about having our name on the door, or the executive car. It’s more about feeling a sense of connection to the cause, knowing the team are on side and having some ownership of the process. I am not saying that this stuff is NOT important to men, often it is, but for women it is far more black and white and without recognition of values the process loses meaning. Maybe this is why women are leaving the corporate sector in droves at the moment?

Over the past 5 years 40% of the senior, female talent has walked away from corporate. Staggering eh? The vast majority of these women set up their own business and hence define leadership on their own terms but how long can the corporate world ignore this statistic? It is now time for a more balanced view of the world, all male boardrooms are NOT ideal – if you need any evidence of this, let me refer you to the current banking crisis…… And research has shown that companies that have a more gender balanced senior team perform better, creating stronger customer loyalty and higher shareholder returns. It’s our time ladies, time to step up.

So, to conclude leaders are role models, leaders inspire loyalty, leaders define the vision and leaders make decisions, but most importantly leaders have followers. So look around, if you are leading but no-one is following, you are simply out for a walk!

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