It would be great to be able to write that men and women are treated equally. However, at this point in time, that is not the truth. Unfortunately, women still face many challenges in rising to leaderships positions. This occurs even though women are pursuing higher education more often than their male counterparts (Northouse, 2016). However, there are ways to help women reach success. In order to do this, it is important for women to understand two different pitfalls that make it more difficult to become leaders and the best leadership approach to take once they do become a leader.
One leadership pitfall that women face is that women often volunteer or assist in leadership activities without receiving the title that is associated with being a leader (Northouse, 2016). Women are often willing to lend a helping hand, focusing more on getting something done than taking all the credit. While some may consider this admirable, it ultimately works against them when it is time for promotions. I have fallen into this pitfall before when I was asked to help out with my school’s student government in the absence of other board members. Although I enjoyed helping out, I soon realized that I was putting in more time and effort into the position than some of the elected members. However, I was not receiving any credit and it would have been difficult to put the role on a resume. Luckily, one of the executives transferred schools so I was given an actual title before the end of the year. This taught me a very valuable lesson in that I need to be more careful in volunteering my time and make sure that I pursue roles that will help advance my experience in a concrete way.
Another leadership pitfall that women face is that we do not negotiate for ourselves (Northouse, 2016). This makes very little sense to me considering that women are known for being more natural communicators. Why do we not take the time to speak up for ourselves, our needs, and our desires? This can be difficult, and it often is a double-edged sword. Women lose out on opportunities because they do not negotiate; however, they also lose out on opportunities when they do. Self-promoting women can be seen as less socially attractive and less hirable compared to men who self-promote (Northouse, 2016). Although this does occur, if all women took the time to advocate for themselves, self-promoting women would become commonplace and society would adjust. This period of adjustment may be prolonged especially if women have similar experiences as I did growing up. As a child, my brother always negotiated with my parents to receive more favorable terms on chores or other rules. I did not usually negotiate with parents, which put me at a disadvantage when I did try to negotiate because I was not as adept as my brother and my parents grew used to me not negotiating with them. Although it may take a while and be difficult to learn, it is critical that women learn how to advocate for themselves in order to move further in the workplace.
Even with these pitfalls, women can still be granted the opportunity to be leaders. When a woman is granted a leadership opportunity, it is imperative that she takes the right approach in order to find success. The best route of leadership for most women is the path of transformational leadership (Northouse, 2016). When women try to lead in a more masculine style, they do not receive the same respect in their leadership role as a man would. I personally experienced this when I was put in a leadership position that required a more autocratic approach. My male peers in particular did not respect my appointed position and my suggestions were often met with opposition, making it difficult for me to find success in the given situation. Although women should be able to lead the way they choose, democratic styles of leadership are often found to be the most successful form of leadership for women as it receives the least opposition from peers (Northouse, 2016). Learning to adjust leadership style is important for the interim until men and women are treated equally as it will allow for more women to find success in leadership positions, which will then lead to more opportunities for women.
Women are just as capable as men to hold leadership positions; however, women face more obstacles on the path to leadership. While it possible to find success, it is useful if women are aware of certain pitfalls to avoid such as volunteering for roles without receiving leadership credit and not negotiating for themselves. It also important that women follow the best leadership approach when they are granted the opportunity to be leaders. By following a transformational leadership approach, women increase the likelihood of achievement as a leader. Although we still have a long way to go before we achieve equality between men and women, it is my hope that this advice will help to lessen the gap for leadership inequality in the meantime.
Northouse, P. (2016). Leadership Theory and Practice. Thousand Oaks: SAGE Publications.