There is always confusion on what leadership, influence and power mean because those terms are often used interchangeably. But leadership, influence and power are not the same at all. A leader is someone who influences others to go in a certain direction. We often don’t see examples of leadership in the established, traditional corporate world although we see great power and influence. For example, the financial meltdown of the markets in 2008 was due to factors such as the failure to regulate financial services firms and the taking of reckless risks. While the financial services firms wielded great power and influence over the regulatory bodies and the public, no leadership emerged by a person or firm to direct a better outcome. Power and leadership do not always go hand in hand.
In our society, most women are not assumed, or expected to be, leaders. While this attitude may be changing gradually over time, women may feel uncomfortable or unfamiliar with assuming positions of power and influence. When we look at the world around us, how could we not? Men dominate in positions of power as CEOs and board directors in corporations, in positions of power in Washington DC and in politics world wide, and men control the flow of money in banking and venture capital. How could this not have an impact on how women feel about their role and power in our world? As women assume greater presence in these fields and become a greater force as owners of companies, we will redefine the rules, raise the number of women leaders, and deliver measurable results.
The most effective leaders are those that emerge “organically” and are not appointed or assigned by someone. In working with various women during my years as an investor and woman entrepreneur, I believe that women who have founded their own companies are great leaders. In thinking of a female founder, not only does she ignore naysayers but she is able to influence and convince others to become users, purchasers, and employees of a business that never before existed. That woman is a leader because she gets others to follow along by the strength of her conviction and passion.
When you are founding a company, being the leader is part of the job description. There is no direct training on how to lead or how to find a conviction that is so strong you simply must act on it. Even the business school classes that touch on this subject are inadequate. So practice being a leader. Some women entrepreneurs may not recognize or appreciate their leadership ability but it is there and it will blossom if they admire it and develop it.
What I have learned about being a leader comes from digging deep in my soul to find what I deeply care about. If you find what matters to you most, you will discover huge energy to live with purpose and to move forward with what you believe in. Then you must be true to what you believe in. You must live a way that is consistent with what you believe and you must be an example of what you believe in. Others will be drawn to your energy and your wisdom and you will then have a chance to do more for your company.
The way to gain influence and find others who believe in you and your mission is to communicate and share your ideas and wisdom. No one can sign on if you don’t put out your beliefs and reasons. A successful woman entrepreneur commits to being a leader. She must know that leading is her role and purpose and others need you to perform your job well. It is important to note that being a leader comes as a huge responsibility and not everyone wants the job. Most people choose to follow a leader because they can focus on moving in a set direction rather than trying to figure it out. Those who follow are equally important because a leader would not be able to achieve as much without helpers to reach the goal. Many entrepreneurs work in teams but there can only be one leader. Choose the strongest vision and person to lead and support her knowing that following is just as important.
Like most women, my own company has a mission and purpose that I believe will make a contribution to others. Gaining influence and power comes naturally when you are doing something that you believe in. You become a voice for your audience and become a person who can make things happen on a bigger scale. Women are assuming roles of leadership and power and should use these positions to do even more. Due to our societal experiences, it may seem unfamiliar to use influence and power to achieve our goals. But when you believe you are doing something that is noble and important, then gaining influence is a moral imperative as well as a business strategy. When women entrepreneurs found and lead companies that are financially strong, they set examples and new standards that allow us to all benefit in so many ways.
Post by Deborah Jackson