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Gender inequality, especially in leadership positions, is still a major problem in many industries. Despite the fact that women make excellent leaders, they are notably rare among C-level executives and don’t get a chance to implement positive changes in their organizations.

With that said, some women have managed to break through the invisible barrier and distinguish themselves as respected, high-level leaders. But what qualities do successful female leaders possess? Here are 6 habits that help women succeed at the highest levels.

Developing Emotional Intelligence

For years, the business world devalued “soft” skills like empathy, communication, and self-awareness, which have always been considered difficult to quantify. Fortunately, however, we’re finally acknowledging that IQ alone is not a good predictor of success, especially in leadership. Emotional intelligence, or EQ, is proving to be much more important.

Emotional intelligence, which measures a person’s skill in empathy, self-awareness, self-regulation of emotions, and the ability to effectively navigate interpersonal relationships. Developing high levels of emotional intelligence is key for women who want to be leaders in any field, but EQ is especially important in healthcare, the non-profit sector, and other people-focused fields.  

Look to Lead and Inspire Courage

Women are socialized to fade into the background and to let men lead. Many women don’t believe in themselves enough to come forward and lead, or they’re afraid to face the double standards that are often imposed on women who lead in the workplace.

It’s not easy to face down those fears, but women who decide to push through and lead anyway inspire courage in others. The more women we see leading, the more women will be inspired to step up and make a difference. Female leaders need to constantly remind themselves that they are well-suited to leadership and often even outperform men in key leadership competencies.

They Don’t Just Hear. They Listen

Women have an advantage in leadership: they’re often great listeners. The most successful female leaders make a habit of taking the time to listen more than they speak. They take the time to understand the concerns and ideas of others before they react and respond.

Gathering information by listening accomplishes two goals. It allows leaders to gain context and to understand the situation or concern and it establishes trust. Female leaders are often better equipped to lead because they are willing to listen before they speak, take chances on people, and establish true connections.

Nurturing Teams and Inspiring Teamwork

In nearly every workplace setting, teamwork is key. Unfortunately, teams are often torn apart by communication breakdowns, lack of trust, and extreme competitiveness. Women, who often have highly-developed nurturing skills, are uniquely positioned to help teams grow and work together.

People don’t want to just come into work and do the same job for 20 years these days. They want to experience professional and personal growth, lean into their strengths, and enjoy working with their colleagues. Female leaders who take the time to nurture individual workers and inspire teams to have each other’s backs are the most successful.

Women Leaders Show Perseverance

Leadership might seem cushy to someone who has never been a manager, but it comes with stress and challenges that can be difficult to overcome. Women have all the tools they need to lead effectively, but every leader must get into the habit of persevering in the face of challenges.

Patience and the ability to handle uncertainty are key qualities for leaders. Women who want to lead must also expect people to have biases and to understand that double standards still exist. Persevering during stressful and frustrating times takes practice but is a quality that all powerful women share.

Adapting to Changes as Needed

The work environment is fluid and nothing stays the same over time. Women in leadership roles have to expect the unexpected and be willing to confidently make decisions and adapt to whatever might come up. We know by now that just about anything can happen—a valued employee quits or becomes ill, a product doesn’t live up to customer expectations, or a global pandemic changes the market as we know it.

It’s still an uphill battle for women in top leadership roles. Perceptions change by the inch, not the foot. But women who work to develop these six habits can persevere and show the world just how effective a woman can be as a leader at every level of an organization. It’s time to use your talents to inspire and lead!

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