Being a woman in a position of leadership is a huge challenge. It’s a tight rope and balancing act. We just need to look at some of those female leaders out there such as Julia Gillard or Julie Bishop. Who in their right mind would want to be a woman in a position of leadership and battle all of those perceptions, stereotypes and be any kind of role model?
A Women in Leadership Challenge Report conducted a survey of Australia’s top 13 private companies. They found that the constant scrutiny applied to women in senior roles often led to burnout and resignation. It was that constant judgment that they were faced with that really was difficult to navigate.
So, here’s the thing, the difficult thing about being assertive, particularly in a position of leadership, is that it’s about communicating your wants and your needs, but in a professional manner. Now, leadership doesn’t necessarily mean a position of political stature or organizational hierarchy. Leadership can purely be a position where other people look up to you. Whether you’re a parent, whether you’re a manager or quite simply a role model where other people follow by your example. We are all leaders in some capacity. We all have people that may look to us.
So, there are varying levels of leadership, but what’s common for all of us is that we have a basic human right to be able to communicate our wants and our needs, to assert ourselves. It’s not a matter of being confident, having the gift of the gab, but it is a balancing act of communication. Where we can come unstuck, is that if we don’t master the art of communication, thereby being perceived as aggressive, confrontational, bitchy or bullying.
You might be right, but you sound like a bitch.
I had a client of mine discussing a difficult supervisory position where there was conflict within the workplace. When talking to the instigator of the conflicts, they discovered that what they were communicating in terms of their needs was actually quite acceptable. However, how they were being perceived by their colleagues as somewhat aggressive, confrontational and abrasive.
It was the way in which they were communicating their wants and needs of their team. While the actual demand itself was reasonable, the way that it was delivered, wasn’t.
What if I lose my job?
I had another client that communicated with me the challenge that they faced in terms of reporting their supervisor. Being able to communicate what you need to somebody in a supervisory in order to do your job, is not uncommon. This client did not want to be perceived as a troublemaker. They didn’t want to be perceived as causing a problem, creating conflict, or seen as a difficult winger. They truly believed that communicating their needs and solutions to be able to do their job properly, was going to be detrimental to their job, putting their job or career at risk.
However, if you’re not able to do your work professionally, if you can’t perform because the resources aren’t serving you, whether it be time, equipment, or access to certain things, you are going to come unstuck. You are going to be seen to be unprofessional; not on top of your workload, inefficient and sloppy.
If you can’t speak up for what your needs are, then ultimately, it’s going to do damage as well. It’s better that you find strategies to be able to communicate your wants and needs in a way that’s not going to be seen as passive, wingy or difficult. And there’s tactics that you can use to be able to manipulate a conversation where it works in your favour, so that you can get your message across without doing damage to the relationship and your professional stance.
Only we can set the benchmarks for how we wish to communicate. If we can assert our wants and needs in a way that’s professional, follows professional conduct, appropriate and that doesn’t overstep the boundaries of bullying or sexual harassment, we can then communicate our needs without being difficult, bitchy, or wingy. There’s a simple, yet subtle nuances that we can adopt to be able to communicate in that way. What tips, tactics, and tricks do you use to be able to assert your needs and improve upon your communication techniques?