Can you learn from a woman leader? Of course, you can. And you would be surprised by just how much you gain. If you’ve ever visited a safari lodge in South Africa, you’ll know that the people working in them go the extra mile to make your holiday unforgettable.
Juggling the challenges of a rural environment and, more often than not, a lack of electricity while delivering a five-star experience requires a particular and diverse skill set and powerful form of woman leadership.
Back in the days before breeding baby goats and growing organic vegetables, my husband and I worked at several safari lodges.
When my husband started his hospitality career as a junior ranger, he had the people skills and knowledge to deliver an exceptional game drive, but his leadership skills needed honing.
What makes a strong woman leader?
Fortunately, the woman in charge of the lodge had both considerable presence and years of experience in hospitality. She soon taught my husband how to approach difficult situations with empathy rather than accusation.
Why A Good Leader Is One Who Never Forgets
With her meticulous note-taking, she remembered everything about every staff member, from the gardener to the head chef.
Armed with so much information, she could engage on any level with anyone. She could chat about the weather or discuss the possibility of a disciplinary hearing without changing her tone of voice.
She never raised her voice or attempted to intimidate, as many male bosses do, and as my husband did before, she helped him transform.
He admired her for her calm attitude, her attention to detail, and her empathy. Rather than telling someone they were wrong, she would question them about how they might do things differently in the future. He realized he could learn from a woman leader.
I’ll always remember my husband saying to his colleagues, “Don’t bring me problems, bring me solutions,” a sentiment he clearly learned from her.
In the past, he would have confronted a colleague with finger-pointing and accusations, but, from his lodge manager, he discovered that it was more productive to try and understand the needs of others and work together to resolve them rather than establish himself as the alpha male.
At no point did she want to assert herself over others or to dominate them. Instead of fearing that giving more responsibility to others would threaten her status, she encouraged others to become leaders in their own right. She wanted them to learn from a woman leader just what it takes to succeed.
How To Lead With Suggestion, Not Intimidation
Unfortunately for me, these experiences turned my husband into a formidable sparring partner who can turn my words inside out and recall every glass I’ve broken over 16 years.
On the plus side, she also taught him to harness his ego and lead with suggestion rather than accusation.
I may never win an argument against him, but he never raises his voice or attempts to intimidate me into surrender.
He isn’t perfect, but he is a different person from the one he was before; this inspirational leader showed him the advantages of compassion over criticism, understanding over inquisition, and problem-solving over finger-pointing.
Indeed, my husband’s transformation is a testament to the fact that the most powerful leadership tool she had was her own example.
This incredible woman taught my husband, who is now teaching me, that “leadership is about making others better as a result of your presence and making sure the impact lasts in your absence.