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Why It’s So Important To Develop Female Leaders Within Your Organization—And How To Start Doing It


how to develop female leaders

We speak of fostering leadership within women as if it’s a light fixture we can easily turn on and off. Yet the truth is much more complicated.

We hear all the time about the importance of empowering female leaders within organizations. And it is important, of course; we know that organizations benefit from increased diversity. One reason is because female leaders bring a different perspective garnered from unique experience. At my church, for example, I’ve seen that women relate to me as a female pastor in a different way than men do — just as men connect on a different level with male pastors. This diversity of perspectives, employed to better represent everyone, ultimately strengthens the community as a whole.

But how, exactly, can companies and teams more effectively elevate female leaders?

We speak of fostering leadership within women as if it’s a light fixture we can easily turn on and off. Yet the truth is much more complicated.

Here’s what really needs to be done.

As a leader in any organization (whether you’re male or female), it’s incumbent upon you to foster and encourage leadership qualities and ambitions of women internally.

Truth be told, a lot of women today hesitate to exhibit leadership qualities — like being direct or voicing their opinions — for fear of coming off as too “bossy,” or being seen as difficult or forward. Moreover, many women are afraid of speaking up more because in certain industries, male-dominated boardrooms remain the status quo.

I’m a co-pastor at my church, World Changers. Religion is traditionally extraordinarily male-dominated. I’ve seen first hand how this pressure manifests and how this status quo self-reinforces. It does not relent on its own.

What organizational leaders need to do, then, is foster an environment where women are not only encouraged to step into leadership roles, but provided explicit organizational security to do so. Create an environment where women are comfortable to speak up. There should be systems in place that guarantee opportunities for leadership.

Encouragement can also be accomplished through community. It’s important for women to meet with others who’ve already put themselves out there and who are now in charge of projects or managing teams so they can learn from them in a sort of informal capacity.

If you run an organization, you can provide space for such communities to flourish by hosting events, providing webinar trainings, or organizing company retreats. You can utilize outsourced resources and sign your female employees up for local leadership events. At World Changers, for example, we recently signed up our internal team for a weekend-long event called Leadercast. We’ve gone to international women’s conferences and to the Essence Festival together. We’ve visited expos like Atlanta LEAD. We encourage our female employees to sign up for women’s business associations.

All of these are just small examples of how female leaders can be not only encouraged and provided more systemic opportunity, but also how they can be purposefully empowered.

Female leaders can show and define to your employees what female leadership looks like.

Now, if you’re reading this and you yourself are a woman in a leadership role, understand that this business of elevating and empowering your peers is very much your responsibility.

Moreover, you should take it upon yourself to model what female leadership looks like. In meetings where there are men in the room, collaborate with them, advocate for equal treatment, showcase respect for differing viewpoints, and fight for the things you believe in.

Lead, in other words, by example.

You should also encourage women around you to speak up, display confidence, and use their voice effectively. By that I don’t mean talking down to colleagues, belittling them, being mean, or feeling superior. Rather, you should encourage and teach your fellow female coworkers what it looks like to be an effective leader regardless of gender — embodying both personable and professional leadership qualities, collaborating respectfully but with passion and self-belief.

At the end of the day, what developing female leaders within both your organization and within organizations more generally comes down to is ensuring opportunities for elevation exist; be confident and be clear on what you are trying to achieve, ensuring a culture of encouragement is in place; and collaborating with compassion to provide every potential female leader the tools they need to realize their promise.

This, together, comprises a kind of essential infrastructure which, ultimately, we all need in order to be our best selves.

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