Guest AuthorLeadershipShital Kakkar Mehra

Executive Presence: Women Leaders

By | Shital Kakkar Mehra | Executive Presence Coach for CEOs I Business Communication Expert I Best-selling Author I Co-Founder Katalyst, NGO

Defining executive presence for women is tougher as you have to layer it with societal prejudices and workplace biases.

  • How does a woman move forward when society hasn’t yet made a playbook for women leaders in the modern workplace?
  • We receive conflicting messages – first we were told to ‘lean in’ and after some backlash, men instead were told to ‘lean out’.
  • How does a young woman aspiring for a leadership role develop her executive presence, when the path is still defined by men?

The good news is that in the current business climate, there is great opportunity for women. Companies are making policies around enabling women so that their impact is more pronounced. The second bit of good news – Executive Presence is a skill and not a trait, making it learnable.

As an upwardly mobile woman manager, you will be spending a sizeable chunk of your time at work in business meetings – both internal and external. These meetings offer you a wonderful chance to create impact as you highlight your area of expertise and gain visibility for your ideas.

You will be voicing your opinion at the workplace when…

  • Working with teams across the world
  • Promoting and sharing new ideas
  • Handing difficult customers
  • Observing inappropriate behavior
  • Asking for a raise or better work-life balance

How to speak up?

  1. Understand the political landscape so you don’t end up being collateral damage. Know the value system of the organization and see if your views match them. Listen and observe your workplace dialogues. Sounds counterproductive, right? By listening to all the conflicting views shared by stakeholders, you can prepare better before you stick your neck out.
  2. Preparation is key: Going into battlefield unarmed and without a plan will make your attack weak. On a similar note, going into discussions with a well-thought-out agenda increases your chances of being effective. Study the facts as that is your best & strongest defence – it’s tough for any boss to argue with facts. Keep the facts handy during the meeting as it will help you stay razor sharp and not ramble. Plan well as timing is critical – consider the consequences and how you will have to live with them afterwards.
  3. Don’t edit your thoughts: Have you had the experienced of censoring your own idea because you felt it sounded childish and then your colleague voicing the same idea gets a from the super boss? If you think of an idea, say it smoothly during the meeting. Many times, we censor and edit our thoughts too much, leading to us internally shooting down good ideas. 

Republished with permission and originally published at Shital Kakkar Mehra’s LinkedIn

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