Why and how women can be the face of tomorrow’s business leaders
Dr. Terri Howe| Career Counselor

The future face of business is a female one. According to United Nations Women, when more women work, economies grow and an increase in a country’s female labor force will equal faster economic growth. Women have demonstrated the qualities of good leadership in whatever work setting or industry in which they found themselves long before acceptance as business leaders. While the glass ceiling is still firmly in place in many ways, there are gleaming examples of women who possess these qualities and shine as models of how female leaders will help shape the face of tomorrow’s business world.

Business analysts have made many lists of qualities and characteristics over the years, attempting to understand what the profile of the future successful leader will look like. Qualities such as having a vision, integrity, and being collaborative have made these lists countless times and are considered critical to the future success of business leaders. In addition to these qualities, choice of leadership style, transformational or transactional, is known to impact a company’s performance and consequently should be considered when trying to determine how the future of business will appear.

It is a commonly held belief that vision is shaped from the top of an organization and permeates the entire company, depending on the strength of the leader’s belief in the vision. Tomorrow’s leaders will need to drive the company towards this vision and at the same time, be prepared to alter the vision to keep pace with consumer demands. Because women are historically good readers and quick learners, they possess the ability to stay abreast of changes that can alter a company’s trajectory and consequently the vision. A great example of this is Chairman and CEO of General Motors (GM) Mary Barra’s vision to transform GM’s traditional offerings to keep pace with the future. In 2016, Barra took on electric car company, Tesla, by launching the Chevrolet Bolt EV, with a battery that outlasts Tesla cars. This was a risky, but calculated move that has reshaped the vision of GM and set the tone for future production.

In order to steer a company towards a vision, a tomorrow’s great business leader must lead with integrity. This involves being an ideal role model when others are watching and doing the right thing even when no one is looking. Leading with integrity will allow tomorrow’s leaders to avoid pitfalls, such as the lack of transparency that have brought large corporations down. Women leaders such as Stephanie Buscemi, COO for the cloud tech company Salesforce, have been “walking the walk” and leading by example in a male-dominated industry. Knowing that her every move is being watched, Buscemi intentionally seeks out challenging opportunities in cloud computing to resolve so she can exemplify integrity in action.

Along with vision and integrity, future leaders will drive business successfully forward by incorporating collaboration into the process. Working together to achieve a common goal is a time-honored practice that women in many industries have mastered to achieve exponentially better results versus the attempt to “go it alone.” Women like to share ideas and come up with solutions that are effective and benefit everyone involved. Collective organizations, such as SheWorx, encourage female entrepreneurs to work together on the same goals and propel their businesses forward, making much greater gains than those who

attempt sole enterprises and have no outside support. Participants in these collective endeavors have found success across the globe with co-founders Yin Li and Lisa Wang setting up programs in New York, Los Angeles, London, Singapore and Tel Aviv.

Besides these qualities, another factor that will continue to shape the face of business is a leader’s style – whether it is transactional or transformational. Transactional style of leadership employs some sort of system of reward and punishment or discipline. In this type of work environment, employees are motivated to perform in order to attain a reward (e.g. bonus pay or additional time off) or avoid negative consequences (e.g. denying a time off request) associated with not meeting one’s work goals. A leader utilizing a transformational style motivates workers by encouraging and inspiring employees. Transformational leaders tend to model exceptional behavior and work to help the employees understand and embrace the company’s vision. Women leaders gravitate to the transformational style because they tend to be relationship-oriented. Unlike men, women are more likely to form strong interpersonal connections with subordinates that encourage higher levels of job performance.

While there are many factors that will come into play to shape the face of tomorrow’s business leader, considering these qualities and styles can provide perspective on how future business leaders could look. And, adding the additional layer of how women embody these qualities and styles aids in bringing the picture into focus. There is no doubt that women who tend to possess high integrity, create and share vision in a collaborative, transformational way will contribute to the furtherance of good business practice.

About the Author

Dr. Terri Howe is the Director of Career Services and Adjunct Professor at Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi and has been a practicing Career Counselor for nearly two decades. She has a passion and interest in researching career options for marginalized or otherwise career challenged populations such as women, military veterans and people with disabilities.

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