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Why Skills Aren't Enough - Cultivating Strong Leadership Identities for Women




While there is a lot of work that is happening in the leadership development space for women, it may focus solely on skill development and competency development, leaving a crucial gap - building a strong leadership identity. Traditionally, women haven't been encouraged to assert authority, and this can lead us to hesitate in leadership roles, which is why incorporating leadership into one's basic identity is especially difficult for us as we have to build reliability in a work environment that is severely divided over if, when, and in what manner women should exert authority.


The article "Women Rising: The Unseen Barriers" by Ibarra, Ely, and Kolb (HBR, 2013) emphasizes this point. Skills are important, but they're not everything. Companies need to invest in "safe spaces for leadership identity development". These supportive environments allow women to explore and develop their unique leadership styles. We don't need endless advice on how to look the part. What we need instead is the space and support to find our authenticity and leadership identity.


This article explores the concept of "second-generation gender bias" and its effects on how women are perceived and how certain leadership behaviors are "unfeminine." Companies often focus on a "competence-likability trade-off," pressuring women to soften their approach or sacrifice likability to be respected. It's time to shift the focus to cultivating a strong leadership identity built on purpose that allows women to transcend stereotypes and navigate challenges in the workplace with conviction. It's about embracing who we are as leaders, not conforming to a predefined mold.


P.S: Do you agree that fostering a strong leadership identity is crucial for women leaders?

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