Career Development, Jefa Conversations, Soft Skills

Jefa Conversations-A Leadership Expert’s Thoughts on Being a Leader

The numbers don’t lie. There are various studies relating to Latinas in leadership positions, and as you can imagine, the data is dismal. The lack of Latina representation in positions of power is stark and downright depressing, if you ask me.

Along with so many other challenges we face in the workforce, not seeing Latinas in leadership positions can have a negative impact on our morale and emotional well-being. 

And as much as I wish things were different, the reality is we can all be leaders now—regardless of our job titles or roles. One of the main reasons I started this blog was to explore this topic further and start the conversation on how Latinas can leverage their innate leadership skills. 

In a recent conversation with leadership expert Diane Garza, we talked about the importance of emotional intelligence and self-awareness, why soft skills need a rebrand (they are anything but soft!), and how anyone can be a leader regardless of job title or role. Diane has over sixteen years of experience in the leadership realm and had so many gems to share with us.

Here are some of her thoughts on leadership:

It all starts with emotional intelligence. My focus with my clients is always on emotional intelligence. That’s the foundation of everything. Once you’ve mastered emotional intelligence, you can build other skills like teamwork, negotiation, assertive communication, managing teams, and other leadership skills. 

Self-Awareness is key for self-leadership. Self-awareness is essential if you want to be a leader. You have to know what you’re good at to maximize your talents and gifts. When you are self-aware, you can build better relationships, develop active listening skills, and control your emotions. 

Practice mindfulness. Establishing a mindfulness practice will help you develop self-awareness. You can start small, whether it’s one or two minutes of mindful breathing every day and then take it up a notch to five or ten minutes. Take notes, and over time you’ll start to notice trends or patterns that will help you become more self-aware of your thoughts, feelings, and triggers.

Leaders don’t have to know it all. A mistake some people make is thinking that a leader has to be omnipotent and do everything right. You don’t have to do everything yourself. Instead, surround yourself with people whose skills complement yours. You want to bring people together and leverage everyone’s talents and strengths to reach a broader goal.

Why soft skills need a rebrand. I have a crusade to call these skills essential skills. I’m a proponent of soft skills and think they are key for anyone who wants to advance in their career. We tend to look at these skills as secondary, but these skills will help us interact with people. Organizations are not just about processes or products, they are made up of human beings that need to work together to reach common goals, so interpersonal skills are a must.

Anyone can be a leader. The good news is that most leadership skills are learned. Some people may have a greater disposition for leadership skills than others, but anyone can develop these types of skills with intention and practice. Don’t underestimate your power or be confined by your job description. Know that you have the power to create change. Don’t wait until you have a title or leadership role to be the leader you want to be.

Leading with impact. You can make an impact at any level. Get in the habit of looking at the big picture and asking yourself how you can make a contribution from your current role. This will keep you engaged and motivated. You want to think bigger. I often tell my coaching clients to think about where they want to be in the next year or five years, and often people get scared because they may not know. It’s a difficult question, but it’s important to sit with it and give yourself time to reflect on it.

Empowering others is leadership. Supporting one another is essential—especially for us Latinas. We should be empowering each other to grow and by uplifting one another. It’s important to set our ego aside and look at ways we can pay it forward. Even if there is no reciprocation, it will always pay off in the grand scheme of things.  

A special thanks to Diane for taking time to share her knowledge with us. For more leadership tips from Diane, you can follow her coaching and leadership business @iCatalyze.

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