How Women Leaders Can Overcome Prejudice Using Agile Leadership

According to the Reykjavík Index for Leadership 2020/2021, “only 52% of people across the G7 group of wealthy countries — 46% of men and 59% of women — has expressed that they would feel ‘very comfortable’ with a woman as head of their government.”

Despite all the excellent management displayed by female leaders during the pandemic, studies have also shown that attitudes toward women leaders still have not changed.

What would it take for the workplace to be equal? What’s the pathway for every female employee to find parity in governments and businesses alike? The vision seems a distance away but there is something women leaders can do today in every company, every business and every organization.

Women leaders have the essential qualities of good leaders and the ability to inspire.

If you are a female leader and are being told you don’t have adequate leadership quality, or great leadership is just out of your reach — prejudice is likely what is impeding your success now and in the future. Obtaining a leadership position is not only about your skills or confidence to inspire others, nor your ability to lead with integrity.


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Chances are, as a woman you may already possess all the qualities of a good leader. However, overcoming the ideals of what constitutes “great leadership qualities” — often overlapping with more masculine archetypes — will be the greatest leadership challenge for you.

If we focus on numbers, we have decades of scientific studies that have proven that women leaders have the characteristics of great leaders — they can achieve success and lead followers as effectively as their male counterparts — as they often exhibit these important leadership traits naturally:

• humility

• self-awareness

• emotional intelligence

• altruism

• prosocial attitudes

• moral orientation

These studies have also shown that not only do women leaders possess the leadership qualities and skills that many great leaders have, they consistently outperform their male counterparts when given leadership positions.

Women can lead. They just need a better strategy to showcase those skills and characteristics so they overcome the prejudice, one company at a time. And The Five Inner Voices of Leadership Agility can get them started.

Develop self-awareness and emotional intelligence with ‘The Captain.’

Look at the landscape. Multi-generational employees and consumers have put demands on leaders — employees are expecting business or company leaders to provide opportunities that help them grow their leadership skills and give them platforms to showcase new ideas. Employees are no longer satisfied to be followers. They want to be leaders too, and be a part of the decision-making process, to have their voices heard.

That is why leadership qualities like empathy, emotional intelligence and self-awareness are essential for great leaders today. Women leaders innately have the ability to understand others’ needs and their goals.

Here are some tips to dial up your emotional intelligence:

• Engage in quality conversations with team members with self-awareness and empathy.

• Discover what employees want to achieve.

• Be discerning of the bias and engage your fellow business leaders by truly connecting.

Articulate the vision passionately and drive it relentlessly with ‘The Visionary.’

A good leader creates a vision. Great leaders go one step further — they ensure their vision for the organization is compelling for team members. Understanding that employees want to passionately own the vision and drive it to completion, an agile female leader has the ability to adopt various styles and connect with a wide range of employees in the workplace, therefore encouraging others to follow her lead.

Here are some tips to amplify your leadership impact:

• Tap into your empathy — your superior intuition aids you in truly connecting and inspiring your team.

• Be the advocate who champions equal representation for women leaders in the workplace. Share a vision where unconscious prejudice or biased practices that work against women leaders are reduced.

Develop more great leaders with ‘The Developer.’

The best leaders ensure business success by actively working to grow more great leaders within their company. The developer does exactly that. Good business leaders create opportunities and experiences for others to become better leaders. They inspire others to develop leadership qualities and skills that will help them be successful leaders. The qualities of altruism and kindness in women helps them put others above the self naturally, and that’s a good inner voice to strengthen.

Here are some skills you can develop:

• Showcase your contribution as an effective leader by helping your team shine.

• Lead by example; teach and develop other women leaders.

Use leadership communication to apply ‘The Strategist.’

A great leader contributes value by pointing the way to a winning strategy. The bar for women leaders to be perceived as effectively communicating is higher. Research has shown that unless women explicitly provided information about their excellent contributions, people tend to judge them to be less competent, less influential and less suited to lead. Hence women leaders need to master leadership communication.

Some good practices for women leaders:

• Determine communication styles that yield a positive effect on the decision-making process or aligns your team effortlessly.

• Talk about your accomplishments with courage. Self-promotion is an essential leadership skill and you need to be able to showcase your value to overcome prejudice.

Adaptability is what makes a good leader — ‘The Agilist.’

Adaptability is one of the most important characteristics a leader needs in volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous (VUCA) times. Good leadership is not static — it evolves with time. As leaders create a vision and make plans to reach that goal, the approach must be adjusted. Use science and data to understand more about prejudices that cause a leaky pipeline for women in your company and industry. Effective leaders always observe, reflect and review for a better future. That’s the role of the Agilist. With a positive attitude and the humility to continuously improve, a woman leader naturally strives to be a better leader.

The road to achieving gender parity could be a long one. It’s more than simply a case of leadership qualities or skills. It’s time for women leaders to take matters into their own hands and work their way around the prejudice using agile leadership traits.



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