Leading the Way: The Ultimate Test | NAWBO

Whether you manage a team of two or 200, this prolonged pandemic has no doubt been the ultimate test of leadership. As women business owners, we’ve coped with challenges for which no training or previous downturn experience could have prepared us.

Now, as we slowly but surely emerge, our ability to lead will be more important than ever. It’s an opportunity to set a new tone that will carry us into an even brighter future as women business owners. After all, if we can survive and even thrive through this, there’s not much we can’t do…right?

A recent article in Forbes magazine highlighted seven most critical leadership traits that will be critical during this emergence:

#1: Candor—The best antidote for a workplace climate of anxiety is candor. People respond so much better to the known (even if the news isn’t great) than the unknown (which tends to fuel more anxiety). 

#2: Consistent, fact-based communication—During the pandemic, there hasn’t been much we could count on consistently, except for regular communications from national and local leaders. The takeaway is that having consistent, reliable, fact-based communications will be a key ingredient to bringing your team together.

#3: Empathy—With the return to a physical workplace, leaders will become counselor in chief in many ways. They will need to tap into a new level of sensitivity as they consider changes to long-standing policies and processes that better fit their organization now.

#4: Ability to manage hybrid teams—One of the few bright spots of this remote working experiment is that for many organizations, they’ve learned they can reduce costs and create efficiencies by developing and supporting a more extensive virtual working infrastructure. This doesn’t just require changes in facilities, but also in mindset. 

#5: Flexibility and adaptability—Most leaders couldn’t have imagined such a drastic, widespread action as a shutdown. Going forward, they will need to avoid the temptation to “stick with a decision” in an attempt to appear decisive and instead be willing to regularly review information and feedback and change course if necessary.

#6: Humility—Leaders are often expected to know it all and make perfect decisions, and the obvious truth is that they’re human like everyone else. Moving forward, humility will be a huge asset. It takes a strong leader to respond to a difficult question with “I don’t know, but I’ll find out.”

#7: Active listening—As leaders return to offices and conference rooms, it may be just as important for them to listen as to lead. For many, their ability to shift gears into “listening to understand” versus “listening to respond” will be a key ingredient for their success.

Earlier this year, NAWBO held its Virtual Leadership Academy that touched on a few additional critical leadership traits that I’ll add to this list:
• Inclusivity that assures all team members feel respected and valued
• Compassion that creates a sense of safety, connection and belonging
• Self-awareness that allows you to lead yourself when the going gets tough

What leadership traits have been most important to you over this past year? How are these now evolving to meet our new norm?

—Cristina Morales Heaney
  2020-2021 NAWBO National Board Chair

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