5 Tips For Women Leaders To Navigate The Lonely Heights Of Leadership

Despite the challenges, women leaders also have a number of unique opportunities. Here are 5 actionable tips for women leaders!

Despite the challenges, women leaders also have a number of unique opportunities. Here are 5 actionable tips for women leaders to navigate the lonely heights of leadership.

“I no longer have enough in the tank,” announced Jacinda Arden, the former Prime Minister of New Zealand, in January 2023, attributing her sudden resignation to not being able to be the leader her country needed, shaking global politics.

A month later, Nicola Sturgeon, the Scottish First Minister, followed suit.

The scenario is no different in the corporate world. YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki, one of Google’s earliest employees, announced in February 2023 that she’s leaving the company to “start a new chapter focused on my family, health, and personal projects I’m passionate about.” 

The announcement came days after Meta confirmed that chief business officer Marne Levine is stepping down after thirteen years with the company to “recharge and prioritise some quality time with family” before beginning her “next professional chapter.”

Why women are leaving leadership positions in unprecedented numbers?

tips for women leaders

These are just a few high-profile examples in 2023 of the trend of powerful women leaders calling it quits. According to the most recent Women in the Workplace study by McKinsey and LeanIn.org, women leaders are leaving their organisations at the highest rate ever, widening the quitting gap between women and men in senior roles.

And for every woman at a director level who got promoted, two women directors quit their company. It’s the highest rate of departures since McKinsey started collecting this type of data.

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The pattern has the potential to unwind decades of progress toward gender equity and increased female leadership in the workplace.

So, why are so many Women Leaders leaving?

While everyone has their own experiences and stories, women leaders face some common challenges that are unique to them. As more women rise to the top of their fields, they are finding themselves under increasing scrutiny and pressure.

This is partly because women are still underrepresented in leadership positions, and their presence is often seen as a threat to the status quo.

It is even lonelier at the top when you are a woman

women leadership tips

Being the final decision-maker has its ups and downs. As an Executive and Life Coach, working with many senior people, including at the C and Founder level, I can vouch for the isolation that regularly accompanies leadership positions.

The weight of decisions, the scrutiny of stakeholders, and the constant demand for peak performance can create a sense of solitude at the top. As a recent Economic Times article put it, one is a lone figure in leadership,

Women leaders face many additional challenges. One of the biggest challenges is the lack of role models and mentors. Women are still underrepresented in leadership positions, so they may have difficulty finding people who can understand and support them.

Another challenge is the unconscious bias that exists against women leaders. Women are frequently stereotyped as being less competent and assertive than men, leading them to work harder to prove their leadership mettle. Care-giving and household responsibilities mean they have to juggle harder than men to achieve work-life balance, making leadership appear like an onerous burden.

Many women leaders are choosing to leave their positions as a result, making it a significant loss for the working world.

5 actionable tips for Women Leaders

Despite the challenges they face, women leaders also have a number of unique opportunities.

Here are 5 actionable tips for women leaders to navigate the lonely heights of leadership: embrace the challenges and opportunities of leadership!

Build a strong support network

A strong support network is essential for women leaders, both personally and professionally. A supportive network can provide guidance, mentorship, and encouragement while making you feel part of a wider support community.

Seek out other women leaders in your field and connect with them on a personal and professional level. Surround yourself with trusted advisors, mentors, and peers who can provide a sounding board and offer valuable perspectives.

Joining professional organisations that support women leaders can be a great way to connect with other leaders, learn about new opportunities, and access resources and support.

Influential figures like Oprah Winfrey have credited their success to the strong support network they have built throughout their careers. Oprah has said that her mentors, such as Maya Angelou and Stedman Graham, have been instrumental in her success.

Read: 8 Networking Tips For Successful Women Despite Gender-Specific Challenges At Work

Prioritise self-care

Self-care is essential to reducing stress and burnout and improving your overall well-being. When women leaders care for themselves, they can better focus, make decisions, and manage their teams effectively.  Taking care of yourself will help you become a better leader.

Make time for activities that promote your physical and mental well-being. Set boundaries between your work and personal life, take breaks throughout the day, and engage in activities that bring you joy. A healthy and balanced life is the foundation for effective leadership.

Arianna Huffington, one of the most successful business leaders of our times, is known for her advocacy for sleep and self-care.

Read: Top 10 Self-Care Tips For Women To Help You Keep Thriving And Hustling!

Embrace vulnerability

Vulnerability is the willingness to be open and honest about one’s struggles. Being openly vulnerable builds trust creates a more positive work environment and encourages innovation and risk-taking.

Vulnerability is not a weakness; it’s a sign of strength and courage.

Be honest about your challenges and share your personal stories with your team and followers. Be open to constructive feedback to learn and grow as a leader.

Brene Brown, a research professor at the University of Houston and author of the book Dare to Lead, has spoken extensively about the importance of vulnerability for leaders.

Read: 7 Work-Life Integration Strategies For Working Indian Women

Connect with your purpose

A strong sense of purpose can help you stay motivated and focused in the face of leadership challenges.

Reflect on your values, remember the deeper meaning behind your work, and consider the impact you want to make in the world. What are you good at? What capabilities can you leverage to make this difference?

Once you better understand your values, strengths, and talents, you can start thinking about how to use them to make a difference in the world. This is your purpose, your guiding light, especially during challenging times.

Nobel Peace Prize laureate Malala Yousafzai embodies a woman whose purpose of ensuring all girls have access to education has enabled her to emerge as a successful women’s advocacy leader.

Read: We Need Genuine Connections In Our Lives That Nourish Us, Not Just ‘Contacts’

Seek guidance from a coach

Work with a leadership or executive coach to help you achieve professional success, develop self-awareness, enhance your leadership skills, and navigate the complexities of your role with greater clarity and confidence.

A skilled and experienced coach can help you build confidence in your abilities and lead with greater authority and presence. She will also help you clarify and set your goals, develop a plan of action to achieve them, and motivate you to overcome challenges. She may also be able to provide you with resources and support to make you succeed.

Sheryl Sandberg, the former COO of Facebook, has credited her executive coach for her success as a leader.

Read: Women In Unusual Occupations: Life Coaching

The last word: you are not alone in feeling lonely at the top

The room at the top is limited. However, the loneliness at the top need not translate into isolation.

Remember, you are not alone and these 5 tips for women leaders are just the first steps. Many women leaders have faced the same challenges that you are facing and have tackled them in their own methods. There are also many resources and support systems available to you. So, seek help.

Leadership is a journey of continuous learning and growth. By embracing the above strategies, you can transform the loneliness of leadership into a source of strength, resilience, and inspiration. I encourage all women leaders to think about what they need to succeed.

Then, take the steps to get it.

You deserve it.

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Image source for 5 Tips for Women Leaders: edited on CanvaPro

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About the Author

Smita Das Jain

Smita Das Jain is a writer by passion who writes every day. Samples of her writing are visible in the surroundings around her — her home office, her sunny terrace garden, her husband’s car and read more...

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