It’s about collaboration, patience and resilience says Anuranjita Kumar

Every position grants you with a certain authority. I n my experience, men and women leverage their influence and power differently. W hi le most men take to power at work easily and are quick to leverage it, women tend to hold back, till authority is clearly shared with them. Leadership attributes that are seen positively in a man can be perceived negatively if exhibited by a woman. An ambitious, outspoken, driven and focused man is considered powerful. Men, more vocal in boardrooms, are seen as result oriented and stronger. A woman who demonstrates similar behaviors, may be viewed as aggressive or self-centered, as this behavior challenges preconceived expectations and the nurturing character one expects from women.

Given this reaction, women choose to play a relatively more facilitative role, to avoid any negative perceptions. In my experience, it is advantageous for women to recognise this early and adopt an integrated style of leadership. Being inclusive and yet being rightfully assertive can garner a positive response and propel them forward. Women therefore need to leverage their strengths of collaboration, patience and resilience, which also comes naturally to them, to find a balance in their overall leadership style, depending on their environment.

Leaders are expected to be decisive and action oriented. Men tend to take risks with less hesitation. Decision making for men is often driven analytically with some experiential learning thrown in. Women, on the other hand, rely a lot more on intuition and on the opinion of others. Being more inclusive may sometime fuel perceptions of indecisiveness, when they are rightfully focused on consensus building. A woman’s style is more subtle relative to a man but it is in no way different in terms of quality of decision making she connects more coherently and sensitively, taking a balanced view of the situation.

How power is used is influenced by how people negotiate or influence men in positions of power place a higher premium on their professional competence, negotiating better for opportunities and rewards. Women leaders understand their power but more often than not, understate it. They rely more on the personal equity and not always on the power of the role. Negotiations and commanding a role is both about leading the team towards goals and winning minds. Women tend to calibrate themselves with far more dexterity while being firm, decisive and tough in negotiations as they tend to keep the impact of the message in mind at all times. Internal and external connectivity are invaluable in enhancing one’s influence that may lead to more powerful engagements. Networking is an area where one finds men far more proactive, as it is another way to yield more influence. It is a domain I find where women consciously step back, either viewing it negatively or simply choosing not to engage, focusing instead on just getting the work done, or investing free time in personal priorities. Women should leverage their innate strengths in building relationships and collaborating to build strong networks, and in turn their own personal brand. This will make them more conscious of what is transpiring in the environment around them and better equipped to position themselves & their organisations strongly. Ultimately, a successful professional imbibes constructive qualities applied to context without trampling on their own styles. It is possible to have a balance on one’s way to achieving success.

Anuranjita Kumar is managing director and chief human resource officer, Citibank South Asia.

Source: The Economic Times (Mumbai)

Date: 30th December, 2015.

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