Build Leadership for Women Leaders
Indra Nooyi

Build Leadership for Women Leaders

"A woman is like a tea bag, you can't tell how strong she is until you put her in hot water." Eleanor Roosevelt.

International Women's Day is observed on March 8 every year. I would like to write a few words on building women leaders as a mark of respect to women. Although leadership is not gender specific, we find a very few women leaders globally due to cultural, religious, social and other factors including glass ceiling. The good news is that currently women are kicking the glass ceiling and excelling globally to carve a niche for themselves.

Women leaders such as Melinda Gates, Michelle Obama, Hillary Clinton, Angela Merkel, Sonia Gandhi, Ursula Burns, Meg Whitman, Sheryl Sandberg and Indra Nooyi stood out from others due to their extraordinary contribution in their areas, thus becoming a source of inspiration for upcoming women leaders. Despite several limitations and constraints women are proving their credentials and capabilities on par with men. They are not behind in any way when compared with other male leaders.

Historically women played a key role in leadership positions and the same is gaining momentum with more women leaders playing an instrumental role in leading in all sectors. However, presently the percentage of women leaders is still low when compared with male leaders. It is basically due to gender discrimination and above all, perceptions of men towards women that prevent women from excelling as global leaders.

Strengths of Women

Women are usually collaborative while men are competitive by nature. Collaboration is essential for smooth functioning of organizations and equally essential is competitive spirit without which organizations cannot succeed. Blending both collaboration and competition is essential for organizational excellence and effectiveness.

Here are some of the strengths of women:

Biologically women have a huge potential and are compassionate by nature. They empathize with others and are sensible to others' feelings. They are good at soft skills and interpersonal skills. They can handle stress levels better than men. By nature, men are more aggressive. However, women are soft and well-behaved. Women are also good at hidden data of communication. That is why they know the knack of understanding male egos, emotions and feelings better and act accordingly. Women are leaders at home. They lead their spouses and children effectively. They are more responsible towards work. Additionally, they are good at multitasking.

There are several myths on women leadership:

For instance, there is a myth that women cannot perform certain roles in military organizations. The truth is that they too have the fire like men and they also have ambition to excel on par with men. Additionally, women stand up for what they believe in and they work with flexibility and compromise.

Are Women better Leaders than Men?

There is a debate globally whether women are better leaders than men. A research study by Jack Zenger and Joseph Folkman shows that the majority of leaders (64%) are still men. Their study substantiates that women are better than men in various aspects. Women have several strengths to their credit and the major six aspects include: taking initiative; practicing self-development; displaying high integrity and honesty; driving for results; developing others; and inspiring and motivating others. However, women have more challenges than men such as they have to manage their family, take care of children and do other household chores. Additionally, they encounter organizational politics and gender discrimination in the workplace.

Women are basically leaders as it is a well admitted fact that behind the success of every man there is a woman. Historically, most women led behind the scenes by guiding men. Businesses too can improve if they encourage women to lead as they can bring in lots of value to the table thus improving organizational bottom lines.

There is a strong feeling that men are promoted due to potential while women are promoted due to performance. It is basically because leadership is synonymous with men, not women. Hence, there must be a shift in the attitude and perception of the people toward leadership and women. Both men and women leaders are two sides of the same coin and the coin is incomplete without anyone. Hence, leadership is incomplete without the active participation of women leaders. Global Inc must spot, support and groom women leaders to keep them in the leadership pipeline to achieve organizational excellence and effectiveness.

A Blueprint to Build Women Leaders

Currently the efforts to build women as leaders globally are lukewarm. Hence, there must be clear cut strategy for grooming women into leadership roles and responsibilities. Here are some of them:

Encourage girl scouts globally where the leadership skills are cultivated early among the women.

Remove the prevailing strong feeling that men are promoted due to potential while women are promoted due to performance.

There must be coordinated efforts and integrated approach from all stakeholders including organizations, women associations, NGOs, and government to build women leaders globally to achieve organizational excellence and effectiveness.


According to the Forbes Insights study with Grant Thornton, more women are occupying leadership positions in Asia Pacific region and China. The research further shows that global status for women occupying leadership is very promising. However much needs to be done to prepare women leaders in the pipeline.

Women must work harder to prove themselves to excel as leaders in this male dominated society. Remember that the society cannot grow when one sex is denied with opportunities. It is essential to let both sexes grow equally based on merit and talent.

It requires empathy on the part of men and broad heart to handhold women to groom them as global leaders. If women also participate in leadership roles and responsibilities we will find a better society with lots of prosperity and stability.

The race to top leadership slot not an easy thing. It is very challenging to go to the top slots and stay. That too, when a woman reaches a top slot, she is really far more capable than men. There is need for all of us to break the stereotypes. Women should break their traditional mental and psychological barriers and move forward towards leadership roles and responsibilities.

Both men and women are biologically different. The difference cannot be treated as deficiency. It is natural for them to lead differently. Let us understand and appreciate the differences and respect them. If mankind takes the support of women there will be all-round prosperity for the entire humankind.

Let us look at women not from gender perspective but from human perspective and judge their competencies and qualifications purely based on merit. Let us look at women with new lenses. Handhold women and take them forward to leadership positions to enable them to endeavor and explore to achieve leadership effectiveness and success.

Prof. M.S. Rao
International Leadership Guru

Copyright © 2014 • UN Post • All Rights Reserved

This Post Has 14 Comments

  1. Avatar
    Maddali Laxmi Swetha

    Excellent Article on Women Leaders

    Success of every man there is a woman behind him. Also success of girl is a journey in her life to stand up as a leader.

  2. Avatar
    John Zenger

    Congratulations on an outstanding review of the opportunity for society to provide better opportunities to women. It is a matter of fairness. It is a matter of our economies needing their contribution. It is a matter of organizations desperately needing their contribution when there is a shortage of effective leaders.


  3. Avatar
    Dr. K. Kishore

    Men must encourage women to become leaders to make a difference to the society. Men must respect and treat women with dignity. In fact, they are the backbone to society.

    Great article by Professor Rao!

  4. Avatar

    A great encouraging article by Prof. M S Rao sir, it clearly tells us that there is a good understanding and confidence on women that they can handle almost all the things in her life bravely. It is great honour to every women. Thanks for that :) and Thank u sir. :)

  5. Avatar
    Vinay Kumar

    Professor Rao rightly said to encourage women leaders. They must be accorded freedom so that the society can utilise their hidden potential to build a better society. The international examples to support various women leaders is truly amazing! His viable blueprint to build women leaders is very good. I want him to lead India from the front to build a better India. We Indian need great intellectuals and leaders like Professor M.S.Rao, I am his die hard follower.

  6. Avatar
    Sekhar Reddy

    Amazing! Everybody knows Professor Rao is passionate about building global leaders. Additionally, he is strong in women leadership and issues about women. He is very keen to empower women and strives for equality of women. I appreciate his contribution by way of his articles in UN Post on the eve of International Women\'s Day.

  7. Avatar

    A very inspiring article on the status of women. They must be respected by all men globally to achieve total progress in the world. I appreciate Professor Rao\'s initiative and great heart to make a difference in the lives of women. Hats off to Professor Rao, International Leadership Guru.

  8. Avatar

    Very Nice article on women\'s day for women leadership. it will make better world.


  9. Avatar

    Marvelous marvelous marvelous, I strongly agree with our guru that Women are usually collaborative while men are competitive by nature. Biologically women have a huge potential and are compassionate by nature. In my life I observed the above qualities in my mother, wife and sister.

    International Women\'s Day Greetings.


    Librarian, JBREC

  10. Avatar
    B.Chathura Sri

    Very good energizing article, encouraging too. Articles like this make us strong and give us encouragement to achieve greater heights and finally as global leaders. Sir by your articles you make us remember our strengths and weaknesses and work on it. Thank you for your valuable articles.

  11. Avatar

    Inspiring article on women leadership. Let us extend our hands to women to help groom them as leaders. It will help make a better world.

  12. Avatar

    Excellent article empowering women. It is the need of the hour to make a difference to the world. Hats off to Professor Rao for his amazing ideas and insights.

    Looking forward to more such articles.

  13. Avatar
    Kirti Kumari

    I know Professor M.S.Rao\'s heart to build global leaders. He is passionate to build one million students as global leaders. Also, he advocates equality of women on par with men. He is grooming me as a leader. I am sure one day I will be an international leader like Indra Nooyi under his mentorship. Professor Rao is my Guru. I will stand by him until the end.

  14. Avatar

    Sharing, I can say the same is valid for man "A man is like a tea bag, you can't tell how strong he is until you put him in a hot water."

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