While women are still underrepresented in business leadership roles, the numbers are moving in the right direction.
Catalyst reports that women in senior management roles rose to 31 percent in 2021, the highest level yet. Women have significant strengths that help encourage communication and collaboration and inspire professionals to achieve more than they thought possible.
When business leaders focus on soft skills like empathy, humility, persuasiveness, entrepreneurial spirit and resilience, it can help increase a company’s financial success and the happiness quotient of employees and their family members. In fact, research from Harvard University, the Carnegie Foundation and the Stanford Research Center, according to the National Soft Skills Association, all showed that job success came more from well-honed soft skills (85 percent) than hard skills, such as knowledge and technical prowess (15 percent).
>> Learn More: 10 Successful Businesses You Didn’t Know Were Run by Women
Here are five feminine traits that make great leaders.
Empathy is traditionally seen as a feminine characteristic. While it’s considered a soft skill, or an interpersonal/people skill, a leader’s empathy promotes cooperation and commitment in the workplace.
You’ve probably heard the adage that a rising tide lifts all boats. Empathy makes an excellent leadership quality because it allows employees and customers to feel heard. When people feel listened to by a leader, they are more open to options and more willing to meet others halfway. That creates a collaborative, happy and productive environment where work can be done better. In fact, employees with empathetic senior-level leaders are 76 percent more engaged and 61 percent more innovative, according to Catalyst.
Women generally don’t like to toot their own horns; thus, humility is often considered a characteristically female leadership trait. Even Jim Collins, the author of the business book Good to Great, notes two common traits among successful CEOs: humility and sheer determination. When things go off the rails, humble leaders can openly admit their mistakes and take responsibility, which shows others that being human and imperfect is acceptable.
While humility is a great leadership trait, it can go too far. Sliding into subservience, introversion or weakness is never a good way to lead an organization. Not speaking up when you have something to be proud of or a great idea does not help anyone progress. Humility is all about balance.
Another female leadership trait is persuasiveness. According to a study by Caliper, women are more persuasive than their male colleagues and scored higher in traits such as assertiveness, flexibility and sociability. Part of the skill of persuasion means genuinely believing in the idea you are presenting and being willing to express that.
Women leaders are willing to take risks to get the project completed. Utilizing empathy, women can see all sides of a situation from other people’s perspectives, so the workforce they lead feels more valued. A willingness to collaborate helps women leaders back the ideas they want to pursue. [Read related article: 50 Inspiring Quotes From Trailblazing Women We Admire]
Women tend to push creative limits and innovate to improve personally and professionally. Women in power don’t fear big dreams. They focus on achieving those goals and reaching for even higher ones, including starting their own business. In fact, women make up 4 in 10 new entrepreneurs, according to the Kauffman Foundation.
Women start businesses for many reasons, including financial independence, improved social status, flexible schedules and to fund their children’s education. They balance a family, work and personal life. A woman with an entrepreneurial spirit seeks to make the world a better place for herself and others. Women-owned businesses grew 16.7 percent from 2012 to 2019, with men-owned firms experiencing 5.2 percent growth, reported the National Women’s Business Council.
Women tend to bounce back slightly quicker than men in the face of adversity. That means when the chips are down, women will move past the initial stress more quickly and effectively than men.
Because women tend to be the family caretakers, they also tend to juggle stresses a bit better in general – because they’re constantly negotiating the home-work balance. Reducing stress makes them more available to their employees, friends and family in times of need.
At work, this translates to relevant benefits for their employees, like help with childcare, mental health services and flexible work schedules.
Just because these leadership traits tend to be more prevalent in female leaders doesn’t mean that leaders of any gender can’t cultivate such soft skills. You can succeed by leveraging feminine traits into actionable steps for your business, like patience, cultural diversity and open communication.
Patience provides the peace needed to reduce stress, cultivate relationships and clarify decisions. Patient leaders are good listeners, which helps provide a positive work environment and the opportunity to train better leaders within your organization.
You can also utilize patience to increase productivity, deepen communication and build confidence. By consistently practicing patience, leaders can achieve more goals and prevent burnout.
Having a culturally diverse workforce and leadership has many benefits. You will notice increased creativity and productivity due to diverse backgrounds and characteristics.
Focusing on cultural diversity can help retain loyal employees and customers. You will also reap the benefits of faster problem-solving and improved decision-making.
With the rise of remote workers and tech-heavy meetings, open communication has never been more critical. It provides leadership with a direct link to employees and allows both parties to express ideas and issues safely and transparently.
Open communication welcomes inclusion and improves collaboration between departments. You will also benefit from fewer business processes falling through the cracks and enhanced employee well-being.
Angela Koch contributed to this article.