Updated: Aug 27, 2021
The obstacles I faced as a businesswoman and a leader have been constant for more than 30-years. I have had to work harder, present myself with a tough exterior and be constantly ‘on.’ My career path included a number of disappointments, bruises and even some scars. Every role and milestone were hard earned.
The psychological, physical, and emotional output to prove oneself as an equal persists for women. Working to get noticed, receive promotions, or get more autonomy takes strategic and unrelenting perseverance and most importantly, a strong leader personality.
I left the corporate world 4 years ago to launch my company, Pivotal Coaching and Pivotal Growth. I had a vision for how to connect people and their performance in a way that corporations weren’t doing. I’ve been building a company focused on performance using diagnostics, leadership development methodology and strategic coaching programs. I see leadership, and personalities, as the key success factor to business performance.
The road I traveled gives me the perspective and motivation to clear away some of the boulders for the next generation of female leaders. Today’s corporate environment is supporting the advancement of women, but we still have a long road ahead. The earlier we can set our future leaders up for success, the more we’ll be able to change the statistics around women in leadership and women on boards.
With all that went on in 2020, I decided to find out how the younger female leader is faring in her mindset and leadership. I deployed Pivotal Growth's tech enabled diagnostic tool to gather insights about her leadership capacity.
For this survey initiative, we adapted our leader persona diagnostic into a 42-question 5-point Likert survey. We asked our future female leaders about their mindset and leader genetics. We opened it up to women leaders between the ages of 25 – 35. We engaged 83 women to generate a baseline of meaningful qualitative and quantitative insights.
We learned that our future leaders are confident in their mindset and are willing to step into leadership. Here are their leadership confidence scores:
Mindset for Success 81%
Based on the year we’ve had this shows they hold optimism in themselves. There is strong evidence on their attitude toward learning. The standout result to this growth driver was their caring for Success of Others (87%) dimension. In a climate when being an empathetic leader is critical, this mindset will enable their having a people focused leader style.
Leader Genetics 73%
Confidence was shown by respondents on questions about willingness to step in to make something happen (82%), facing mistakes and learning from them (90%), having and being able to use decision making skills (80%). These are important leader persona attributes around control and competitiveness.
Barriers to Leadership
This group’s 73% Leader Genetics self-confidence score was brought down by their being self-critical. Another limitation that surfaced is reflected in their attitude, or attachment, they hold to being perfect.
Evidence of women leaders being self-critical was found. The most telling low confidence shows up in “I do not criticize or second guess most things I do (49%)”.
A self-critic holds back self-confidence. This is an important insight as the persistence of a self-critic will erode their ability to step into their highest leadership capacity. Taming the self-critic is the priority to focus on.
Self-confidence (70%) is a critical dimension to leadership. It will be diminished when the self-critic is highly engaged. To challenge the persisting system that holds women back, they’ll need to be bold. They will need high self-confidence to weather the challenges, obstacles and criticisms that are ahead.
Mindset for Success
Leaders face many obstacles while executing their work. Facing obstacles and persisting through failure is an area of development for women leaders. All other Mindset for Success dimensions were over 80%. The finding that brings this focus to light is “I do not believe in perfection (67%).” Leadership mastery is realized with practice and often means being imperfect. The opportunity sees facing obstacles with the lens of failure islearning.
As a leadership development consultant, I am heavily focused on implementation of action plans that lead to results. Based on the survey findings, my advice for 25–35-year-old women leaders would focus on this 4-step action plan:
1. Manage your self-critic: Get to know your self-critic, when it shows up, and how to tame it.
2. Accept some imperfection: Ask yourself two questions: “What is good enough?” and “What is the worst that can happen?”
3. Embrace the obstacles ahead: This is a 40+ year career plan. Be disciplined. Be persistent.
4. Step boldly into your leadership: Dream. Risk. Act.
The Challenge to All Leaders
We need to make certain that women leaders have every opportunity to realize their dream through education, credentialing, experience, and mentoring.
For those of us in leadership, we hold an opportunity to be influential in the success of our future leaders. Our survey results highlight the areas to manage, lead and coach next generation leaders. Invest in our future by investing in the development of our future leaders.
If you don’t have a formal development plan process, it is the time to set one up.
Lisa W. Haydon is the founder of Pivotal Growth Inc. She’s a leadership performance consultant known for her abilities to sort through business complexities, understand distinctive leader personalities and realize results.
Pivotal Growth provides growth-oriented companies with critical leadership data and action plans. Using technology-based methodology, they take the guesswork out of understanding the performance capacity of leaders and teams.