Understanding who you are and what you can contribute is a vital step in determining what kind of leader you want to be. Particularly if you are a woman.

The discussion of women in leadership positions has escalated over recent years – and for good reason. While 46 per cent of all employees in Australia are women, we represent only 12 per cent of chair positions, 23.7 per cent of directorships, 17.3 per cent of CEOs and 26.1 per cent of key management personnel in reporting organisations[i] . We clearly have a long way to go.

Dynamic female leaders, such as Australia’s former Sex Discrimination Officer Elizabeth Broderick and Facebook’s Sheryl Sandberg, have been shining a spotlight on these discrepancies and many organisations are acting to bring about positive change to ensure that gender diversity is a key consideration for senior appointments.

But there are also opportunities for us to look at ourselves to identify the skills and critical experiences we will need to make it to the C-Suite – if that is something we desire. While it’s vital for every individual to bring their true, authentic selves to the work place, there are some common leadership and personality traits that I have observed in successful, women leaders over the years.


Successful leaders are the motivators. They thrive on getting good results, influencing others to do their best and helping the team feel a sense of personal accomplishment. While this isn’t a gender specific leadership trait, it is one that I see work effectively in women leaders who oversee high performing teams. Women are great at showing their passion.


Those who naturally collaborate, are confident in themselves and their teams, deal with ambiguity and are determined to make an impact are those that stand out from the crowd.


Life experience influence who leaders are. Successful women leaders identify their experience gaps and look to quickly fill them, even if it means getting out of their comfort zone.


Unfortunately, faking it until you make it doesn’t always cut it. Successful leaders ensure that they have a strong solid skill base to build on, or surround themselves with others that help fill that skill base.

Thankfully, these leadership traits are ones that can be learned and adopted so that they genuinely become part of your authentic self. For women that are keen to increase their level of seniority and responsibility, get out there and:

  • Pursue challenging experiences that offer high visibility in your organisation
  • Work with a mentor to identify opportunities to improve your experience
  • Get realistic feedback that goes beyond working on your confidence, communications skills and presence
  • Be aware of your motivators – it’s likely you will need to step outside of your comfort zone to get the necessary experiences and that may not always align with your personal aspirations (and that’s ok)
  • Let go of perfectionism. It can be the enemy of taking those challenging stretch opportunities
  • Consciously think about your career and where you want it to go. You might not know what your next role is, but you should have an idea about the characteristics of that role. Don’t drift.

Challenge yourself in how you can do things differently so that you can reach your goals. Every day, look for opportunities to lead with purpose. Lead people to perform. Lead with authenticity. Lead the market. Do this and your leadership aspirations will quickly be realised.

Source: Workplace Gender Equality Agency