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Wisdom from Women Leaders

Posted by corporate events Philadelphia

May.04, 2016 3:57 PM

Female Leaders in Corporate America

By: Karen Higgins, Immediate Past President of the National Association of Women Business Owners (NAWBO) Philadelphia Center for Advancing Entrepreneurs

There is no doubt that men and women are different (we all know “Women are from Venus, Men are from Mars”) and there is no question that women and men lead in different ways.

According to the Pew Research Center survey (November 2014), women and men are considered fairly equal in their overall capabilities of being good business leaders; however, there are specific traits in which one gender tends to be more proficient than the other. The Pew Research Center survey seems to be in agreement with most other reports on genders and leadership, finding that women tend to rank higher in honesty and being more ethical than their male counterparts; and also are more likely to ensure fair pay and good benefits for their staff and provide better guidance or mentorship to young employees. On the other hand, men are perceived to be more decisive and more willing to take risks. This doesn’t mean women are better business leaders than men or vice a versa. It just means that they are just different.

In July, SmartCEO will be honoring 40 female leaders who have an intense entrepreneurial spirit and a passion for giving back to the community with the 2016 Brava Awards. These female CEOs understand what it takes to drive growth within their companies and inspire others to succeed. I had the chance to ask three of the past SmartCEO Brava Awards winners about the leadership skills they think are essential for women CEOs and executives and how these skills lead to better employee and client relationships and also how these skills motivate the people around them.

Courtney Seda McDonnell

Courtney Seda McDonnell (2014 Brava Award Winner), Owner and Managing Partner of the Law Offices of McDonnell & Associates:

“There have been recent articles about the need for the “No Executive” to bring practical realism to the creative visionaries in the workplace. The ability to counterbalance the creative visionaries with the reality check is an essential management skill necessary for successful leadership. The best ideas have no real business value unless there is a practical plan to execute them within the confines of a realistic budget. Even though women appear to be naturally more focused than some of their male counterparts on practical execution, women CEOs cannot be viewed solely as the person always saying “no.” They must inspire the visionaries on their team to produce good ideas while creating a well-planned strategy to complete that vision.”

“During trial preparation, I encourage our creative trial lawyers to narrow down their more complex and esoteric arguments and focus on a simple explanation of the case. For example, teaching ordinary jurors difficult medical concepts through expert witnesses can be an overly ambitious goal. Listening to a medical lecture in the middle of a trial can strain jurors’ limited attention span and interest in the subject matter. While the visionaries are thinking broadly about all the medical evidence they can present to the jury, I try and make them focus on the simple story about the injuries in the case.”

Betty Long

Betty Long (2015 Brava Award Winner), Founder and CEO of Guardian Nurses:

“My mom taught me a LONG time ago that if I wanted to be successful at anything, I would have to work hard and not be deterred. She worked as a waitress and then, after having six children, got a job as an evening shift typist. She knew it was a ‘man’s world’, but she stressed to me that I could do anything I set my mind to do – so I want to thank my mom for teaching me to work hard!”

In addition to working hard, Betty considers: “integrity, honesty, clarity (in vision and in communication), giving and getting respect, a sense of humor, generosity (in spirit and in benefits), and honoring your commitments” as key leadership skills for women CEOs and executives.

“Every day, our nurses work with patients who are sometimes struggling with the healthcare bureaucracy. By observing my interactions with staff and with our clients and vendors, they see for themselves that we always want to maintain an individual’s dignity and interact with them professionally and respectfully. We are healthcare professionals so we need to ‘walk the walk’ and display a genuine sense of caring for everyone, not just our patients.”

Anne Sceia Klein

Anne Sceia Klein, APR, Fellow PRSA (2014 Brava Winner), Founder of Anne Klein Communications Group, LLC:

“Women leaders must exhibit toughness and understand what their business is all about. Like their male counterparts, they need to have a vision for growth, set out reasonable objectives, be adept to lead teams, understand economics, and be enthusiastically involved in marketing and community endeavors. While they can’t be a ‘friend’, they need to share information, and be open and receptive to employee ideas and concerns. Most important, women need to have a strong sense of ethics and integrity, recognizing that ‘winning at all costs’ isn’t worth the cost at all.”

“The strength of a CEO’s business side, as demonstrated by her analytical abilities, shows the woman knows what her business is all about. Employees and clients like to know they are working with a solid leader. Women have a strong ability to explain the ‘why’ of their decisions and ‘how’ the strategy they selected will achieve business goals. They explain how all the pieces fit together. Women tend to engage both employees and clients and build relationships. Ethical behavior is always respected by employees and clients and contributes to long-term relationships.”

Inspiring the Next Generation of Women Leaders

Pew Research Center’s study lists the seven leadership traits that matter most as: honest, intelligent, decisive, organized, compassionate, innovative, and ambitious (in that order). These three women, like the 2016 Brava Awards winners, exude these characteristics and are prime examples of high-impact women leaders that are succeeding in business and making a difference in their communities.

The challenge is, the business world is still a “man’s world” even though females have the leadership qualities required to run successful businesses. Only five percent of Fortune 500 CEOs are women and it’s about the same for Fortune 1000 companies. Therefore, it is critical that we encourage young professional women to follow in the footsteps of today’s powerful women leaders – motivating and mentoring them to reach high and position them for greatness as the next generation of business leaders. We have made tremendous strides over the years, but there is plenty of room for women in the C-suite and the boardroom.

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