From the Perspective of a Young, Female Leader
“Women are socially conscious leaders that serve to cultivate innovation and initiative for both themselves and others,” wrote Glenn Llopis in a 2011 Forbes article titled “4 Skills that Give Women a Sustainable Advantage Over Men.” It may be for this very reason why the percentage of women in senior management has grown globally to the highest ever recorded, according to a Catalyst, March, 2022 report. But the reality is — developing young, female leaders requires more than thoughtful leadership and a feminine resourcefulness.
As the VP of Design and Marketing for King Business Interiors, leading as a woman allows me to foster collaboration and empower other women to see the vision. King Business Interiors — a best-in-class office furniture and flooring dealer in Columbus, Ohio — was founded by my mother, Darla King, more than 20 years ago. As a women-founded and owned business, advancing female leaders to new heights is part of the legacy my mom has created. But doing so requires a bit of nurturing and here’s how:
1. Instill And Develop Confidence
It’s no secret, women make great leaders. In a study by Pepperdine University, women in top positions reported beating the industry average in terms of productivity and profitability. The key, however, lies in helping young women envision this for themselves. Because I was raised by a strong, woman leader, my mom has impacted my mindset and outlook to never doubt my ability to lead. Furthermore, she showed me that nothing could get in my way. I realize not all young women grew up being influenced by a “built-in” role model to shield blind spots, but don’t let that be a barrier to your path. You can seek guidance from other female leaders, which has also been instrumental for me during my leadership journey. Seeking to find your role model, either within or outside your organization, helps guide you through obstacles and is essential to developing your own leadership aspirations. For existing leaders, aim to be that influential force and confidence boost for other future female leaders — it will truly make a difference!
2. Mentor Through Collaboration
Growth and inspiration can come from any direction! A truth of both up-down mentoring and collaboration. Women are natural-born cultivators who seek to establish company cultures where collaboration is not only encouraged but furthers productivity that impacts the bottom line. As a developing leader, remember to play to that natural strength and for those who are nurturing young leaders remember to embrace collaboration. For example, looking to other women has given me space to speak openly, a sounding board for processing and the guidance I’ve needed to become the leader I am today. Conversely, looking back I realize how impactful mentoring younger female leaders has been to my own development. Not only has it helped increase my own confidence, but it’s also heightened my self-awareness of behaviors and feelings that I work to strengthen.
3. Invest Time in Developing Leadership Skill Sets
The journey to become a leader requires development of specific skill sets. And as a young leader, growing that confidence and skill set may lie outside of your own organization. For example, I’ve volunteered in a variety of association committees and boards. Stepping up to lead in those has helped me strengthen soft skills (such as, handling difficult conversations, being influential and advocating for new ideas) in a safe space, while also developing hard skills such as budgets, financials, marketing and other areas of expertise I’m not exposed to in my day-to-day job. This goes for the employer as well as the employee! Support and encourage participation in professional organizations to help your young, female associates practice and hone their leadership skills.
4. Establish a Strong Network
Another crucial part of developing or helping to develop female leaders is to understand the power in surrounding oneself with the “right” people — both personally and professionally. “Women see opportunity in everything and everyone: their neighbors, friends, family, business associates, strategic partners, etc.” Leveraging that very strength is imperative for a young leader’s development, as the very foundation of a good business is being open to diverse people and perspectives. And diversity is a lot of things: age, gender, race and sexual orientation, but also ideas, backgrounds, education and skill sets.
Curating inclusive environments is only one side of the coin here. Young leaders should fill their life with those that cheer them on! My mom taught me it can feel lonely at the top, so building a strong support system at home and in the office is essential to your overall well-being. At times you may feel defeated or lost but with the right team of support to build you back up, you can overcome a lot.
“Women in business are masters at fostering impactful relationships that last.” So while competitiveness in business can be the norm, the reality is — women build each other up. Being in a female-dominant industry, I’ve been inspired by working alongside other women. It’s at the heart of this where we’ll find the ingredients necessary to nurture and develop our young, female leaders.