hen working our way up the corporate ladder, women after often outnumbered by men in leadership roles. Having spoken to an extensive number of women in corporate industries, one collective factor they all deemed essential to their success in male dominated industries was emotional intelligence; being able to decipher what type of personality traits are required for work, when to employ them and how to keep developing them throughout their career progression. As Wall Street financier Julie Schultz told us earlier this year, “to be a truly great leader means you have to do things that are unpopular” – learn and develop these 7 personality traits to become an effective leader and employ them as your best line of defence.
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Assertiveness is often quoted as the number one key characteristic of effective leaders. It requires you to be an excellent communicator, in order for what you say to be voiced as accurately as possible. Assertiveness is often mistaken for aggressiveness, often translated into a ‘bitchy’ label. But put simply, being assertive is the perfect medium between two extremes – being aggressive and being passive. “Being an ambitious woman certainly doesn’t mean you’re a bitch” says sporting executive Karen Brady. “We have to change that thinking”. Being assertive is based on finding a balance - clearly asserting your ideas, beliefs, and wants whilst also respecting a possible rebuttal opinion.
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As noted by JFK, when written in Chinese, the word crisis is composed of two characters; one represents danger and the other represents opportunity. Your ability to handle stress requires you to be able to remain calm and composed whilst amidst chaos, as well as keeping an eye out for opportunity; a way out or a potential solution. Stress is more likely for women according to IMF managing director Christine Lagarde, as “they are more likely to have two jobs; the one in the office and the one at home”. Being able to keep calm during stressful situations not only means you can set an example for others, but allows you to see opportunities within the eye of the storm and take advantage accordingly.
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Lacking energy is not only a productivity killer, but it also hinders your ability to work with and inspire others. An essential part of maintaining your energy is being conscious of when it depletes; something you can harness to better your career in the long run. Although always sustaining a high amount of energy is unrealistic, prioritising your work and delegating are both effective ways to conserve your energy. By tackling the most substantial and energy-consuming tasks first thing in the working day, you feel better equipped to handle the tasks and in turn, your energy can be replenished over the course of the day to handle everything else. Delegation is also key; utilise the help you have and sustain your energy levels by distributing tasks to others, in order to get the job done quickly.
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Productivity can drop just as quickly if your morale is low. Although it’s unrealistic to aim for unwavering optimism, the effects of simply ‘faking it’ can often be converted into genuine emotions and produce a far more positive and productive output. A recent Berkley study showed that daily gratitude practice enhances alertness, enthusiasm, determination and attentiveness – an appealing set of attributes for any candidate asking for a promotion. Fixating on the positive attributes of your day or life can improve your emotional state and develop into a long-term habit, which is an investment in your emotional wellbeing. Plus, it’s also been reported that those who are optimistic and consequently, more pleasant people to be around, add more value to their working environment and thus, earn more.
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Being aggressive doesn’t translate as succumbing to anger. In an office environment, being aggressive can be a constructive and progressive quality that kindles productivity from others, as if they were ‘jolted’ into their working groove, slightly ruffled by their superior’s behaviour. Aggressiveness is often incorrectly perceived as a masculine trait, as disclosed from observational data collected by Stanford University from 132 business school graduates over an 8-year process. The study determined that women who displayed ‘masculine traits’ such as aggressiveness were better at being able to self-monitor their behaviour, build upon and improve it as they progressed through their careers. These women were also considered more chameleon in their roles, able to adapt their actions and behaviour to the circumstances of any given situation and receiving 1.5 more promotions than men, based off their ability to promote themselves as worthy candidates.
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Once again, being empathetic requires you to find the middle ground in working with others. In being able to emotionally connect with others, the age-old mantra of ‘putting yourself in their place’ is effective. In empathising with someone, not only can you see things from their perspective, but you can bring in your own reactions to the same situation and mould your response or counter-proposal with something that suits both parties. There will be plenty of opposition in which emotional connections and empathy are irrelevant or even damaging, but in working on your ability to connect and work with others, understanding one another creates a positive and more productive working environment. It’s a slowly-acquired skill that requires time, patience and emotional intelligence. However, once mastered, it never loses relevance.
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It’s important to be able to bounce back from a bad situation. When faced with a challenge, criticism or a public platform in which things didn’t go according to plan, it’s essential that your poker face is card-proof. As part of a radio panel discussion called Women in Leadership: Resilience through Change, career columnist Jill McGillen observed that women in leadership are not necessarily concerned about “survival of the fittest” but more about “survival of the flexible”, discussing how women have “an inherent attitude to be flexible towards their work.” Citing Hilary Clinton as an example, McGillen stated that women in leadership roles should leverage their resilience “to spring back and re-shape their work.” Similarly, Dr Katherine Jones believes a woman’s resilience is what makes them better leaders in the long-term because “gender bias will continue to exist”. Drawing on the words of Janis Joplin, Dr Jones advised others to retain their integrity in the quest for resiliency; “don’t compromise yourself, you’ve all you’ve got.”
Many thanks to our partner publication Your Coffee Break magazine for collaborating on this article. Your Coffee Break is a London-based lifestyle magazine for the professional woman. With representatives in New York, Los Angeles and Paris, Your Coffee Break has established itself as the go-to magazine for global businesswomen, looking for inspirational content to read on their coffee break. @UrCoffeeBreak