Women Leadership in the 21st Century

After interviewing distinguished women leaders and respected business representatives in the entrepreneurship, corporate and civil society sector in Deauville France at the Global Womens Forum as a representative of the ILive2Lead International Youth Delegation, and learning a lot from them - attained wisdom and saw it wise to share my knowledge on what it takes to be a  woman leader in the 21st Century, where my articles were published by international media such as Global Women's Forum, ILive2Lead Blog, The Daily Beast and Huffington Post

Thanks to organisers and directors of The Raymond Ackerman Academy who had taken the initiative of arranging the Raymond Ackerman Young Leaders Engagement event  at the University of Johannesburg -Soweto Campus, where I had the privilege of meeting outstanding women leaders, who ran successful social businesses, entrepreneurial ventures and strived to continue their work doing various projects aimed at providing solutions to socioeconomic challenges and contributing to the growth of personal and professional development of others. 
It was my honour and pleasure to address the audience about Women Empowerment in the context of Leadership and "What it takes to be a An Effective Woman Leader in the 21st Century" 
I had recently watched the renowned movie: "The Help", Grammy Award winning "12 Years a Slave" and countless other female lead movies including the outstanding South African produced film "Sarafina!". The remarkable characters depicted in the story-lines always cultivate a feeling of great emotion, particularly when analysing the role and portrayal of women in them. The lead they take evokes a deep sense of empowerment and the authority that women have to stand up for themselves, fight for their rights and those of others, to be delivered from oppression- which has been a struggle for millions in the past decades & centuries - makes any woman watching, feel proud of being a woman and restores the sense of self-belief in one's self. The rich history it portrays also promotes self-actualisation, self-respect and dignity amongst all else.

Though we consistently talk about women-to-women agenda's, it is equally important to recognise the opposite gender too. They are the only other gender: both genders should engage in participative leadership, share information and power. As much as men are assertive and competitive, women have too adopted those similar qualities, where I am of the opinion that having diverse qualities leads to maximized participation, diversified opinion and productivity in any course of action.
There is a cultural shift that has to happen between men and women of all generations, if we want to deal with female representation and leadership, we will have to deal with gender parity and embed the principles of gender equality. In that way, women and men alike can rise indefinitely and diminish income disparities, human rights violations, imbalanced opportunities and economic participation which are often the results of gender inequality. Therefore, I believe that women leadership can rise with the collaborative and collective generosity of motivating one another to achieve greatness.

Below I have only included a brief outline of the 10 things I consider one to use as a guideline, to attaining knowledge on being an effective leader in any [desired] field of expertise in the current century.

What it takes to be an Effective Woman Leader in the 21st Century? Less than 10 things!

1. Having a clear vision : This is a critical and crucial element to any daily and future orientated action or function. It is vital to make sure that you have a clear vision what is accommodated by a mission, objectives and strategies on how to achieve set goals. By executing and implementing the set plans - ensures the possibilities of moving closer to achieving the desired vision. Therefore, one has to concede with the fact that: A vision without action is merely time wasted.

2. Courage: Courage goes alongside confidence. One needs to have the confidence to not be easily discouraged, therefore you need to have the courage to see the vision you have play out in reality and strive to make it work, regardless of the battles you will face along your leadership journey. 
For many young women leaders, fear is usually primary barrier to opportunities in their various fields of interests, it is therefore important to know that courage is about being unfearful, confident, authoritative and assertive in your position of action. Have the courage to speak out when you have been granted the opportunity to and be the person you want to be.

3.  Determination: Having the drive and zeal to keep going, nobody says it will be an easy journey. Be determined to achieve the goals you have set for your course of action by keeping the vision of the overall execution in mind. Achieving goals usually requires some level of sacrifice and challenges, this is about having the tenacity of stay-power and focus. If you are determined to achieve something you believe in, trust me, nobody can stop you.

4. Perseverance: After the determination to achieve the set vision and goals for execution, It is equally crucial to have steady persistence in your course of action.  If you plan on getting something done, be persistent and patiently persevere (without giving up), until you get it.
Despite the obstacles, difficulties and discouragement you will receive in our journey, live with the belief that: The more you do something, the easier it will be and become more natural  the next time you do it.

5. Be informed: The current generation is a generation drowning in information - but - there isstill  a great lack in wisdom and knowledge. In the industry that you work in or pursue to work in, you need to be informed.  When you have knowledge about something, you will feel more confident about talking about it. This will help in building courage and speaking out even if your voice shakes. Get facts, analyse statistics and current trends, share that information and grow from it. Investing in education, knowledge and wisdom is the best thing you can ever do for yourself. Short Learning Programs at industry specific [Executive] Business Schools are a meaningful way to getting in-depth and detailed knowledge.

As a wise man once said: "Education is the most powerful tool which you can use to change the world" - Nelson Mandela.

6. Be strong & have a sense of self. Theo Sewo CEO of African Women's Development Fund acknowledged that being a strong woman leader in the 21st century requires one to have a strong sense of self. Being a "woman"  is not enough. It is of great importance to primarily know who you are, what you want, what you don’t want, what you will settle down for, what you will not tolerate and so forth. This will help you in building a character that will accommodate you in the daily proceedings of the industry you work in and in communicating with others with better intentions. This does not mean take yourself too seriously and forget to have fun, but rather - be the person that you want to meet. You will learn how to be more eloquent in your word, more assertive (not aggressive) and easily understood.

7. Focus! : My mother once said, "Jack of all trades tire faster.” I used to do so many things at once [which is not a fault because I strongly believe multitasking is an inborn female characteristic]. It’s not a bad thing to be a jack of all trade because you learn a lot in the process - but - there will come a time where you will have to choose. To choose and focus on one thing and do it exceptionally well is where ultimum success comes from. Though trying new things can be a learning process and route for discovery, doing too much in one time can leave you drained, confused, tired, and eventually can result in you losing your vision and direction . Also make sure that you invest enough time in yourself as much as you do invest in others. The word is: BALANCE.

8. Dare to be different: If we were all the same, what fun would living life be? Embrace your difference, your unique talents, your unique style. Your unique physique and mental orientation. Being different comes with being misunderstood, but rather be misunderstood than ordinary right? Always remember that your unique sense of self [no matter how different to others] is what makes you , YOU.

9. Mentorship and Coaching: Give in to being mentored and coached; form relationships with industry leaders, people who have been there done that, graced through all the challenges and succeeded over all exception. You will feel more confident in your work as you will be constantly reminded of why you do what you do. As a participant of the Fortune 500 Mentorship Program in South Africa, do condone mentorship and guidance as an effective professional strategy proven to work in elevating a person to the next level of their leadership or entrepreneurship journey.

Whoever you know that can mentor you, who is doing what you are doing no matter who they are: follow them. It will be to your benefit if not otherwise.

9. Resilience: Resilience is a characteristic many successful people acknowledge because they would not have else been successful if they did not have the ability to get back up after obstacles and challenges & continue to strive again! You have to have the ability to be determined and focused enough to stay confident and courageous in what you do, despite the obstacles and challenges, as a woman leader you will have to learn how to be persistent and patiently persevere to reach your goals. 
As much as mentorship and coaching can be applied to various principles to assist with being fervent in your doings, it is equally important to stay strong and have a sense of self, because after all else, when all is done and dusted...there will be more incidents that might not be related to one another where you will have to practise resilience, and that i strongly believe will assist you in your desires to being an Effective Woman Leader in the 21st Century.

I am empowered and thrilled about seeing more [young] women in supreme & powerful leadership positions and being effective women leaders in their fields of expertise and interests in the future.

Zanele Mabaso is an ardent advocate for the global youth community, with primary interest in sexual reproductive health, education and economic empowerment of young women and girls in Africa. A member of the Global Shapers Community - Tshwane Hub in South Africa and One Young World Ambassador, Zanele is determined to lead were governed for the liberation and Human Rights Representation of women around the world. She is the Global Ambassador for ILive2Lead International and strongly believes that exceptional young women leaders need to take the authority of being free - to inspire, motivate and lead those who are not as privileged.

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