In 2019, it’s finally time that we rethink leadership. To build a better society, we need innovative and inclusive leaders that are brave enough to break away from the traditional styles of leading we are all too accustomed to.

With that in mind, here’s the first of a three-part series on women in leadership. In each post, three trailblazing leaders will answer a different question.

What qualities do you think are key to great leadership that might not be considered ‘traditional’ leadership qualities?

Jasmine Ramze Rezaee

Senior Marketing and Advocacy Officer at YWCA Toronto, Board Member at Social Planning Toronto and Access Alliance Multicultural Health and Community Services

“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”

– Maya Angelou

In our society there is a tendency to subsume the richness of one’s identity under one’s profession, and people are treated differently, sometimes in unfair ways, based upon that. Recognizing people for who they are – and the gifts they bring – is an important leadership quality. And the best part is: it’s not hard to do! So I think it is very important to recognize each person’s inherent worth irrespective of what function they serve in a professional capacity. A leader takes an interest in people and recognizes the essential humanity and creativity in everyone.

Another understated leadership quality is recognizing when you have plateaued professionally. When you are not growing and evolving, you are actually stagnating. Stagnation leads to decay and will eventually undermine your ability to lead and feel satisfied. Blood needs to flow into every organization and office to create healthy, sustainable workplaces. So recognize when you have plateaued – move on to other challenges and give someone else the opportunity to grow.

Heather Barnabe
CEO at G(irls)20

Two qualities that are not ‘traditional’ but I consider essential are empathy and humour. Empathy helps us understand the perspectives of others and can better inform our decisions as leaders. In addition, an empathetic leader promotes a healthy workplace culture among staff, establishing ‘rules of engagement’ that are absent in toxic workplaces. Have you ever worked somewhere toxic? You would probably agree that empathy, and particularly empathetic leadership, was in steep decline (or nonexistent).

Humour is another foundational quality of good leadership. When a leader acknowledges the value of humour, it’s because she understands that humour has the power to diffuse, relax and refocus a team.  At G(irls)20, we take our mission of helping tackle gender inequality seriously. But that doesn’t mean we take ourselves seriously. Abe Lincoln said “I laugh because I must not cry.’ That is an apt summary of the importance of a sense of humour when your work is serious business.

Abena Offeh-Gyimah

Founder and CEO of AddaBlooms, Natural Foods

Earlier this year, I decided to take some time off to reflect and re-evaluate challenges and opportunities I had last year. I noted some qualities that are key to great leadership; such as being of service to others, taking responsibility for yourself, and helping others grow. However, what has impacted me most is the power of knowing oneself. To know myself required me to assess my strength, weaknesses, and motivations. This gave me insight into my behavior patterns, thought processes, management style, and relationship building. The longevity and sustainability of the enterprise, and the building of a good team requires spending time looking inward to become self-aware. To make an impact in the food and agribusiness industry, I am constantly learning that the key to relating well with others is to first understand and relate well with myself.

Learn More:

On International Women’s Day, Let’s Remove These Six Barriers to Women’s Leadership
I Belong Here and I Deserve to Succeed: Supporting Women Entrepreneurs of Colour
Not Cut Out for Traditional Leadership? How about Inclusive Leadership?

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