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FEMALE LEADERSHIP AND INNOVATION

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We are exposed to a variety of leadership styles from the time we enter the workforce in casual after-school employment right through to the day we announce our retirement. While some inspire us to thrive, others lack that certain je ne sais quoi.

One of the many perks of my job is that I talk to people from all walks of life. And when it comes to that part of the conversation where I nosily ask “What do you do for a living?”, I’m treated to a wealth of insight into how different leadership styles affect employees of all ages, genders, experience and industry. But one thing does stand out, and that is the difference between how most female-led companies are run opposed to those led by men.

Dr. Patti Fletcher, author of ‘Disrupters: Success Strategies From Women Who Break the Mold’ delves into this phenomenon. With case studies that explore businesses run by all-female founding teams, Fletcher notes six strategies used by female leaders in business to drive their company’s growth.

 

Inclusive Culture

“Diversity doesn’t do much, but inclusivity can be amazing” Fletcher writes. Throughout her observations of women-led businesses, Dr. Patti noticed that some female-founding teams placed great importance on innovation – and with this, came the belief that a company fuelled by varied perspectives, experiences and skill sets is the key to success – hence a strong sense of inclusivity.

So when it comes to new hires, company leaders are encouraged to spend one-on-one time with their new employees, building trusting relationships and making clear that diverse perspectives are not just allowed, but expected.

 

Purpose and Profit

There are a number of business owners out there like myself whose businesses are founded upon a passion for the industry and the purpose it provides to customers. With businesses such as these, the quality in service is typically of a higher standard, and staff wellbeing is noticeably optimistic.

When Dr. Patti observed the companies noted in her book, certain global businesses stood out for their focus on ‘making meaning over money’. “It’s not just about turning a profit or gaining market share but about accomplishing something worthwhile while doing so,’ Fletcher says. So when we are happy in our workplace and believe the services we provide are worthwhile, growth and profitability come naturally.

To implement this idea in your business, I suggest revisiting your company ethos (then sticking to it), and employing people who share your desire to deliver quality service and have a clear passion for the industry.

 

Consider the Risks

When comparing companies fronted by men with those led by women, many male leaders viewed business barriers as obstacles, while female leaders saw them as opportunities.

For example, in the case study of a female-founded start-up business that experienced high growth following its conception, the founders identified that because there was no scalable framework in place, they would need to reconsider their long-term goals – and this meant limiting their client intake for the months to follow.

That may seem a little backwards though, right?

With concerns that the operations leading to their success were not sustainable, the company founders decided to focus on reworking their business model instead of taking on more clients – a risky decision that paid off in the end.

 

Investing in Staff

This is a simple premise, so I’ll keep it short.

Did you know that in some female-run companies, it is company policy to extend paid sabbaticals to employees of over five years? Imagine that!

Within these businesses, the founders were of the belief that by investing in your staff’s happiness and wellbeing, they are more likely to remain loyal to you and your brand. Makes sense to me!

 

Hiring People, Not Employees

Wouldn’t it be nice to find employment at a workplace where your personal commitments and private life are respected? Well, apparently it exists!

One case study observing a female-led business offering flexible schedules, generous family leave, and a re-entry program for new parents proved that staff here were more loyal to their employer as opposed to those who felt reprimanded by a lack of flexibility in other workplaces.

In female-run businesses, there seems to be a better understanding and appreciation for the employee’s personal life. Is this because women are known to be more empathetic?

Or maybe they are just more realistic, because they are mothers themselves or work alongside mothers with the responsibility of running around for the children in their care.

Or perhaps female leaders understand most women’s innate ability to multi-task, so there is no real threat that their employees will exploit their kindness?

 

Know Your Market First, Build Your Business Second

Whether you’re a male or female, I want you take some time to think about your business… What were the first steps you took to develop your product or service? What was your inspiration? Who did you have in mind as you put countless hours in to establish your business?

While there is no right or wrong to these questions, an amazing approach Dr. Patti observed in her book was to get a little spiritual. In one case study, the company CEO started ‘outside herself’: travelling the world, liaising with potential clients, partners, suppliers, employees, and taking into account each perspective…. Then creating her now very successful company. A backwards tactic, maybe, but successful nonetheless!

 

So with all this in mind, it is not to say that men in business have less to offer by any means. It does however suggest that female leaders are perhaps more innovative and have a lot to offer in terms of strategic business models, creative start-up processes and clear long-term goals based on people and purpose rather than money and ‘me’.