9 Things Women in Leadership Must Know

4 min read | Susan Colantuono

There are many things that women haven't been told about leadership from career-start to the corporate boardroom. Here are 9 fundamental things about leadership that women haven't been told and need to know. They are these.

Leadership is simple, but it's not easy. It's simple if you have a definition of leadership that is useful and prescriptive. This is the first of 9 things that every woman should know about leadership:

1. "Leadership is using the greatness in you to achieve and sustain extraordinary outcomes by engaging the greatness in others." This definition is one you can use to make plans at the start of each day or evaluate actions at the end of each day. Acts of leadership involve standing on the foundation of personal greatness, focusing on achieving key outcomes and engaging others in achieving those outcomes. 


Beyond that, 8 other things that women haven't been told about leadership include:

2. Conventional wisdom about leadership leads women astray. Conventional wisdom - because of its roots in a time when there were virtually no women being studied - overemphasizes one of the 3 elements of leadership: interpersonal skills. The implicit message is that if you have strong interpersonal skills (which women do), you will get to the top. This is inaccurate (see #3).

3. Business skills are essential to leadership and career success. This is The Missing 33%® of the success equation for women. In order to achieve and sustain extraordinary outcomes women need business acumen, strategic acumen, and financial acumen.

4. Precise understanding and use of the word leader will solidify an understanding of leadership. When any random person in a management or executive position is called a leader (even if s/he doesn't fit the definition), it confounds your understanding of leadership. All companies have executive teams, but not all have leadership teams.

5. There's value in distrusting the idea of "leader versus manager." Great acts of business leadership require that executives and managers both "do the right thing" and "do things right"; engage hearts and minds and efforts!  It is unhelpful to define a leader (one who does the right things and engages hearts and minds) by saying it's not a manager (one who does things right and engages effort).

6. Traditional leadership development programs aren't equally effective for men and women. Because they tend to overemphasize interpersonal skills and underemphasize business savvy, traditional leadership development programs underserve the needs of women.

7. Wearing the mantle of leadership means acting like a business owner rather than as an employee. By donning the mantle of leadership at whatever level, from individual contributor to executive, you are looking for what you can do for the business rather what the business can do for you.

8. To move up you must understand how leadership differs by levels. What you see depends on where you stand. In order to understand how to move to the next level you have to understand how leadership in the job you seek looks to the manager above it!

9. Use the skill of disciplined practice to excel at leadership. Leadership is a set of learnable skills that can be improved through the hard work of disciplined practice. You need the intention to improve, discipline to seek, receive and analyze feedback on your performance; and the opportunity to repeat activities and gauge improvement.

Armed with these 9 fundamental points about leadership, you are better equipped to chart a career with no ceiling and no walls. Though it's not easy... it is simple!