Women have come a long way since the days when my Olympic Teammates had to wear the hand-me- downs from the men’s team. Because the elastic was worn out, they were forced to duct tape their waist bands, so that their shorts wouldn’t fall off when they were running down the court. Those were the days when women reporters were banned from male locker rooms, when women were ridiculed who wanted to coach men, and when the thought of a woman president of the United States was so far from mainstream thought that no woman would even consider running.
Life has changed. And yet, women are far from having the opportunity to lead that men do. Less than 4.2% of the top CEO’s from Fortune 500 companies are women. Even though 57% of the population of colleges and universities are women, only 26% of college presidents are female. And 42.8% of all coaches who coach women are female while less than 5% of all coaches coaching males are females. Because women are not afforded the same opportunities as men to lead, women must show superior leadership skills to gain opportunities.
What type of skills will bring you to the top? The three main leadership skills to bring to the table are assertive communication, conflict resolution skills, and motivational skills.
When I taught leadership skills to Anytime Fitness, their women leaders struggled with the label that many women receive when they are strong—the “B” label. When you are a strong woman, you might face men who suggest you continually suffer from PMS, or women take your words personally complaining that you are too mean. As a student female leader, you have a tough line to walk, but when you learn assertive communication skills, that line gets easier. Assertive communicators are confident, open-minded, good listeners, and respond rather than react. They possess the ability to gather information, ask team members for suggestions, and determine the best course of action. They are inclusive but will take decisive action when needed.
Team members look to leaders to resolve issues. If you cannot resolve the issues that student team members bring to you, chaos will ensue, and nobody will follow you. When I ask student leaders at leadership retreats where they learned communication skills, they normally respond, “Our parents.” When I ask them how many of their parents had great conflict resolution skills, one or two students out of a hundred will raise their hands. Most of your student members will do exactly what their parents did: play the blame game, use the silent treatment, or throw a temper tantrum. If these are the skills you use, you will not get ANY students to follow you. The secret to conflict resolution is to provide yourself with these five ground rules:
- Let the other person finish speaking before you speak;
- Focus on the current issue only
- Keep open body language
- Use active listening;
- Concentrate on the solution rather than the blame.
Zig Ziglar said, “Some people say motivation doesn’t last. Neither does taking a bath. That is why you do it every day.” Students love to remain in their comfort zones, because it is easy. If you allow your student team members to sit back and take the easy route, they will enjoy the ride until they realize they didn’t accomplish their dreams. Then they will blame you. You are the one responsible for exuding positivity in tough times, offering solutions to challenges, and holding the vision toward your goals. To accomplish any goal, you will find dips in the momentum of reaching that goal. If you allow your team members to dip in enthusiasm, the goal is lost.
The only way that women will have more opportunities to lead is if more women are willing to take leadership roles, and if we support the women who are in leadership roles. Women don’t support women like men support men. We are awesome at assisting our female friends when they are sick, hurt, or their boyfriends break up with them, but we fail to support them when they run for office or seek higher roles in organizations.
Now is the day to support one another and to change the percentages of women in leadership roles.
About the Author
Coach Sherry Winn is a Two-Time Olympian, National Championship Coach, and Amazon Best Seller. She is one of the nation’s foremost speakers on winning in life, love, and leadership sharing over 2,000 hours of WINNING WISDOM with audience members.