1. Practice what you preach – formally and informally
Feminist leadership is about leading with the values of feminism in mind.
Feminist leaders “will strive to make the practice of power visible, democratic, legitimate and accountable, at all levels, and in both private and public realms.” Srilatha Batliwala
Feminist leaders are focused on shaping work policies that value employee satisfaction over corporate success. They try their best to make sure at every level, members of an organisation feel respected and valued.
They are focused on building diverse and inclusive spaces at work. They keep operations transparent, and do all they can to acknowledge the needs and desires of everyone their decisions impact.
And they follow their own policies and values – even when it’s hard or when they don’t think anyone is watching.
2. Redefine ‘Success’ and ‘Hard work’
For too long, organisations have most valued people who do things they way they’ve always been done and uphold the status quo. And the measure of a good employee has been how much they can sacrifice for the “greater good” of the organisation. Or how alike they can make themselves to the leadership team.
Feminist leadership is about rewarding labor and measuring success differently. Feminism tells us:
- Different perspectives make us stronger
- Balance in our lives is the key to a world where we value each other’s humanity
- Respect and support for everyone in our movement – at every level of understanding and capacity – is of the utmost importance.
A feminist leader knows a workplace is only sustainable when its members have control over their own lives. That means reasonable timelines that don’t put colleagues’ schedules out of whack. Giving people control over their days so they can fit their own personal needs as well as work priorities. Shaping a work culture where human needs are just as important to the organisation’s goals.
A feminist leader also knows that every team member has value. They don’t push employees to fit into a specific idea or mold, but work out where each person’s strengths are – and how those strengths can help the whole team.
3. Share power and credit for work
Feminist leaders need to challenge all kinds of power – whether it’s formal or informal, visible or hidden.
Workplaces can be driven by competitiveness. People feel power is limited – and so they find themselves fighting with one another to claim it. Instead of supporting each other, colleagues focus on tearing one another down to make themselves look better.
What we’re left with in these workplaces is an environment where people are more focused on getting credit for successes or advancing than investing in the long-term success of their team. And so, a cycle begins: The power-hungry come into positions, they reward others who are the same, and the rest of us suffer.
Feminist leadership is about valuing everyone’s contributions – and putting the process over self-importance.
Some leaders might collaborate on a project with their subordinates only to then claim full credit for it. But feminist leaders try to see everyone’s unique contributions in full light and value them equitably.
No task, big or small, is insignificant or seen as unworthy of praise and appreciation in an organisation guided by the principles of feminism. Whatever people can add to the mix is of value, because everyone is valued.
That means feminist leadership is also about sharing authority and power and making decisions collaboratively. Feminist leadership rejects the idea of “lone wolf” leaders that our patriarchal culture values so highly.
Instead, feminist leadership is about collective leadership, democratic power structures, and consensus-building. It’s about dismantling hierarchy, not just doing better within one.
Rather than competing for power, people working with a feminist leader feel like they have their own authority and agency. And that they’re part of something bigger than themselves.
4. Build community and relationships
What if our managers and supervisors were equally concerned about our relationships with one another and our output for our organizations?
What if fostering an awesome workplace was just as important as reaching quarterly goals?
Feminist leadership is about building community and forming relationships that make an organization’s work stronger – whether it’s by forging coalitions, building bonds with potential allies, or even getting to know their adversaries and competitors a little better.
That means building workplaces where diversity and inclusion are cornerstones, and providing everyone – regardless of their age, gender, ability, race, ethnicity, sexuality, or sex – with a work environment that feels safe.
5. Mentor and empower your team at every level
Leadership is not inherent. It isn’t natural.
Sure, some of our leadership practices are unique and intuitive to us. Extroverts may find that the public speaking aspects of positions of power are a breeze, for example. But often, good leaders aren’t self-taught.
Instead, they’re mentored and empowered by their colleagues and shaped by their experiences. Feminist leadership posits that we all have the capability to lead.
Patriarchal notions of power pit us against one another. Feminist leadership challenges us to see the best in one another, and help each other to grow and succeed.
Instead of focusing on how high we can climb the corporate ladder, feminist leadership challenges each and every one of us to focus on cultivating the “next generation” of leaders, helping teach one another the skills we’re well-versed in ourselves, and sharing power and opportunity.
Mentorship and empowerment shouldn’t be opportunities only within reach for some of us.
That’s why feminist leadership means embracing that each of us can both teach and learn. And that within every single one of us is the potential for more greatness and to impart some of that greatness on someone else.
To be a feminist leader in any work environment is revolutionary
To treat the people you lead with respect, destroy pedestals of power even when they benefit you, and empower the people who shape your success is a far step from the toxic work environments that so often stress us out, burn us out, and keep us down.
Feminist leadership is about challenging ourselves and the people we work alongside to trust one another, support one another, and grow with one another.
And that’s pretty damn powerful, if you ask me.