At the turn of the 21st century, the phrase “Women in Leadership” started to become a power phrase and often the inspiration behind the development of specialized education and training programs focused on developing women to serve in leadership positions across industries historically dominated by men.
Decades of research revealed educational and professional development gaps. As a result, several higher learning institutions started offering courses specifically for women to develop or hone executive-level skill sets such as communication, negotiation and decision-making, and conflict management (characteristics common to the “D” style leader). Ultimately, they aim to equip and empower all women with a desire for organizational leadership with a solid understanding of various behavioral and communication styles experienced at the executive level.
What can women do to prepare themselves for success when seeking career advancement and senior or executive-level leadership positions?
Get familiar and comfortable with DISC. DISC is not only gender-neutral, but Dr. William Marston, who created DISC theory, the engine behind PeopleKeys’ behavioral analysis, was an advocate for women’s rights. DISC can effectively level the executive playing field by removing gender from the equation, replacing it with predictable behavioral styles known as Decisive (D), Interactive (I), Steady (S), and Conscientious (C). Originally developed as a communication tool, DISC theory precisely answers what higher learning institutions were attempting to address decades later when initially developing executive programming specifically for women.
Leadership development does not focus on a single style or position. Learning to exercise situational leadership presents the opportunity for every personality style to effectively communicate across diverse organizations. Understanding varying leadership styles, along with effective communication strategies for each behavioral style, will guide aspiring leaders and rising executives towards success. Let’s take a look at the leadership strengths of each personality style:
There are several benefits of executive coaching for women in leadership. It helps increase self-awareness, clarify vision and goals, identify areas for further professional development, and offers an opportunity to explore ideas and concerns with a neutral listener.
Each leadership style may experience common gaps or barriers to success. Coaches can help work through challenges by offering suggestions on overcoming gaps for each style. For example, a “D” would benefit from active listening, an “I” may need to slow down and focus on details, the “S” may seek to adjust to organizational changes, and the “C” may need help broadening their focus and learn to delegate.
Ultimately, everyone possesses various characteristics of each behavioral style; they display them at different times, in different environments, and under different circumstances. Understanding and implementing DISC communication strategies will lead to more productive meetings, negotiations, and conflict management at any level within an organization. Investing in understanding human behavior is another benefit for women in leadership roles who frequently switch between the boardroom and the living room. Think about the woman who effectively handles an internal dispute amongst fellow executives, then heads home and cannot seem to diffuse the argument between her D-Style Husband and I-Style son. Environment matters; relationships matter!
The challenge often remains for women who desire to advance in their careers to identify their strengths and areas for improvement. Know that as a Decisive executive leader, it is possible you still may find yourself in a room full of Conscientious and Interactive colleagues who require a bit more time to discuss and reflect on the information presented. Likewise, you may find you’re the Conscientious executive leader who needs more information from your Decisive or Steady colleagues in the room, but find it difficult to communicate with them. People are different, but they’re predictably different if we take the time to learn.
Equip yourself now with the knowledge and tools to adjust your communication and leadership style to meet the needs of the environment you’re routinely operating within, while effectively interacting with people who possess similar or opposite behavioral styles.