A simple five-point formula to help women leaders have their cake – and eat it too


Did you know:

  • India ranks the third-lowest in having women in leadership roles
  • Only 20 percent of the senior roles in corporate India are held by women
  • 41 percent of the businesses surveyed have no women in leadership roles

Recently I was reading an interesting study on women and leadership in corporate India and these numbers startled me. I strongly believe that irrespective of gender, leadership is not about the title, it is about the behaviour. Yet these numbers do tell a story, which makes women and leadership – or simply a respectable career – an often discussed topic.

Over nearly two decades in corporate India mentoring over 100 women on what it takes to be successful in corporate life while maintaining a happy personal life, I have observed the leadership behaviour of women very closely. I must say, women carry some impressive leadership qualities naturally, which they must leverage. But unfortunately, a lot of us give up early on. So I often pondered:

  • What limits us?
  • What must we do as women leaders to not only stay in the workforce but succeed too?
  • Do we have to choose between personal happiness and professional satisfaction?
  • Can we have it all?

The great news is, yes we can have it all – maybe not all at once, but then why to be in a hurry? Patience and persistence pay. So here is a five-point formula that women leaders must follow to achieve the right balance:

It’s OK to not have everything ‘sorted’

“Everyone else has it all figured out, only I have no idea whats going on”. Does this statement resonate with you? Be it the student fraternity, the professional space, a mothers’ group, or even social get-togethers, this is one common challenge most women tend to discuss with me. Often my response to them is, “No one is perfect. Why do you think even pencils come with an eraser?” It’s okay if we do not have our things figured out. Our beliefs are one of the most commonly found limiting factors in all human beings, but with a higher proportion amongst women. So, take one step at a time.

First, believe in yourself and have confidence that you will swim through once you have jumped in the pool. Remember – the most attractive thing you can wear is confidence.

Who needs to conform?

Secondly, don’t conform to norms or stereotypes. Why is it taken for granted that if elders at home fall sick, or a PTM has to be attended in school, then the lady of the house has to take time off from work? In case any other member volunteers to do so, then it is looked upon as “help” and not really the role! Similarly, at work, the so-called tough tasks with pressing deadlines are given to men, and a lot of us accept it quietly. If you are expecting equal treatment then stand up on such occasions too.

Let people think whatever they want to as no one can understand your situation better than yourself. So do what works the best for you. I am not saying be selfish, but definitely, love and respect yourself. We attract what we believe. You have to believe in your worth and capability.

You define your success

This brings me to my third observation i.e. the Superwoman Syndrome. We want to be the best daughter, best wife, best mother, ideal employee, top performer, and so on. Why? Who decides what’s the best? Each of these relationships and roles are special. Cherish them. Don’t fall into the trap of being the best according to someone else’s definition of who you should be. Have your own definition of success and enjoy every bit.

Financial independence helps...a lot

Being financially independent is the next big step. By this, obviously, I am not limiting the focus only to your salary. Being financially independent means planning your finances well, investing right, being insured for health and life, knowing your life goals and aligning your fund flow to them, and so on. It’s no longer cute to say, “Numbers don’t talk to me,” or “I don’t understand money and finance”. You must. Not only for personal financial security but also at professional fronts, a leader must understand numbers.

Reach out for support when you need it

Finally, remember to create a fantastic support system both at home and at work. Multitasking is not necessarily productive. While we may take pride in multitasking, a lot of research has proven that the human brain cannot always multitask efficiently and productively. Too many things on your mind can take away your focus. So, build a robust support system that you can rely upon when any of your roles demand more of you. Get used to technology and leverage the convenience it offers.

The list can go on and on, but this simple five-point formula has helped me come out of constant guilt trips and move up the corporate ladder while enjoying my kid’s company. We have to understand that the whole concept of work-life balance is a misnomer. They are pretty much a part of each other – they are fully integrated. The balance has to be within us. We have to overcome our limiting beliefs, and then no ceiling – whether glass or steel – can be a hurdle in a woman’s leadership journey.

Mitu Samar is the Founder of Eminence, a reputation management company.

(Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of YourStory.)