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Leading by Example: Empowering the Women Around You

Part of the OWA mission is to enhance and promote the leadership role of women. What’s amazing is that this isn’t limited to women in management roles. Leadership abilities exist within all of us, regardless of our job titles or levels of experience. Whether you are a seasoned executive or just starting out, you have the power to lead by example and make a real impact on the women around you as well as the broader world.

Leading by example requires setting standards through your own behavior, not just telling people what to do. You embody the qualities and excellence you want your team to adopt. Your actions speak louder than words — if there is inconsistency between what you preach and practice, it breeds frustration and mistrust from those around you. But when you exemplify motivation, dedication, and passion yourself, it ignites those qualities in others. You must model the attitude and work ethic you expect. Walk the walk, and they will follow.

But what is our real goal in leading by example? Yes, it’s to enhance our own positions, roles and influence — but women are much more powerful together than alone. So, it also means engaging in women’s empowerment and building up the network of women around us.

With that larger goal in mind, here are some tangible ways to uplift the other women in your network by leading through example:

Develop and Display Confidence

Confidence matters! Women may believe their ideas are not worthy if they are not perfect, thought out, and fully planned. As a result, women are more likely to underestimate their abilities despite all evidence that they are overqualified and overprepared. It takes practice and experience to develop confidence in our own ideas, opinions and thought processes. But once you strengthen your belief that you bring value to the table, women see that and emulate it. It’s empowering to share your wisdom and encourage others to speak up and share theirs. Sometimes just making the effort to seek out the opinions of the women around you will encourage them and enrich you.

Share Your Story

Building confidence starts from within, and sharing our personal experiences helps strengthen self-assurance. Much of the progress women have made was inspired by the stories of great women that came before us. Sharing your struggles along with your successes makes others feel like they’re not alone. Women are much more powerful when united because of the bonds of our shared experiences. Being open about your story and honest about how it has impacted you, opens the door for other women to share their own experiences. It is through this sharing that we learn more about the women around us, we gain a powerful network, and we enhance our own lives through the lessons of others.

Be Respectful

Behavioral scientist and personal development coach Dinorah Nieves, Ph.D. once stated, “We won’t all always agree with one another just because we share a gender identifier.” We’ve talked a lot about encouraging ourselves and others, but it’s important to acknowledge that our interactions with the women around us won’t always be positive. All of us have experienced being dismissed, have been left feeling unheard, or like our point of view was unimportant. It can be quite discouraging and can make us rage inside or become dismissive. Since we’ve all been through it, it stands to reason that when we find ourselves in a disagreement or tricky situation, the best course of action is respect. Make the effort to honor the intelligence of the women around us by treating each other with respect, even when it’s difficult.

Invest in Yourself

Personal growth is bound by our own limitations. It’s important to take the time to discover our goals and create plans to make them a reality. It could be taking a course to gain knowledge, working on an undeveloped skill, investing in self-care, or actively seeking a network of support. The point is – when we make ourselves a priority, we become more in tune with our abilities and contributions. Prioritizing and modeling our own importance encourages our self-confidence. When we recognize our own importance, it becomes obvious to others and empowers them to do the same.

Provide Mentorship

Once we have built up our own abilities through personal investment, we can pay it forward by being mentors.

Michelle Obama once said; “I am an example of what is possible when girls from the very beginning of their lives are loved and nurtured by people around them. I was surrounded by extraordinary women in my life who taught me about quiet strength and dignity.”

As an impactful and influential woman, it’s powerful to hear her attribute her success to the support she received from other women. We each have a story and as a result, an opportunity to share with others. While it’s wonderful to have mentors helping us learn and grow towards our own goals, there will come a time when we can give back to others as well. Consider participating in formal or informal mentorships within your network.

Women’s empowerment is accepting women’s viewpoints, making an effort to seek them, and raising the status of women through education, awareness, and training. In other words; active mutual support. The Optical Women’s Association does an excellent job of this through their networking, education, and peer support programs. But beyond the OWA, we can empower the women around us through our day-to-day actions. This year I encourage you to take the time to invest in yourself, build your confidence and self-worth and then give back to the network of women around you. We are all more powerful together.

Written by: Holly Gough

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