Lucie Laflamme, directrice générale of Université TÉLUQ, reflects on her experiences as a female leader and gives advice for future generations of women.
How do we benefit from having women in management?
While we shouldn’t generalize, women managers are more likely to have stronger emotional skills, and to express kindness, empathy and sympathy. The ability to understand one’s own emotions, and to deal with someone else’s, can help untangle complicated situations. These days, emotional intelligence is as important as mastering human resources or financial concepts.
What is the greatest challenge to women’s leadership?
The biggest obstacle to women’s leadership is often… women themselves! From early on, women know all about the glass ceiling, but often go against their better judgment, and limit themselves in their quest for power, whatever it may be. They may be reluctant to apply for a job offer because they lack the necessary skills, or because they doubt their ability to progress. Sometimes women reflexively say no to themselves, before anyone else does. But once again, this insecurity, which has long been involuntarily cultivated by previous generations, is changing as more and more strong, powerful and assertive female figures emerge!
Why is mentoring important for successful management?
A good female mentor is reassuring, someone who’s a good listener but not complacent, someone who encourages us to take on new responsibilities. By acting as a role model, she can give you or restore confidence in that little voice that drives your intuition, a voice that is often ignored in the highly rational and politicized world of management.
But once again, we really shouldn’t generalize. A good mentor can also be a man who understands the concept of vulnerability, an asset if it’s articulated in the right way. And while I was fortunate enough to have female mentors throughout my career, I know that this type of inspirational male profile is becoming more prevalent in our organizations. This is a win-win for both men and women!
How do you balance career, personal life and hobbies? Is it even possible?
This difficult balance is not only possible, but it is necessary and essential! If you think you can work around it in the short term, eventually it comes around to bite you. That’s life…
I’ve been using a life hack: all of my personal activities—family, hobbies and interests—are written down in my agenda (in private mode), just like my professional appointments. They have their own special place outside of my work hours. On the weekends, I’m in charge of my schedule. If I need to work, I do, but I also try to make sure that I don’t let it get in the way. It sounds simple enough, but it requires constant vigilance. Having the courage to say no, or to set limits when it comes to preserving our personal space is just as important as ever.
And more than anything, we need to make peace with that sneaky feeling of guilt we may experience when we temporarily prioritize one area over the other. It’s a delicate balance, that’s often imperfect, changing, sometimes unstable, but we should always be mindful if we don’t want to lose ourselves. Indulgence begins with yourself.
What is your advice to the next generation of women leaders?
I would simply add, “Ladies, stop limiting yourselves, someone else will do it soon enough.” Have the courage to ask for help when you need it and look at it as a sign of much-needed clarity in your career. Always remember that asking for help doesn’t mean you’re not good, but that you want to be better. This way, you’ll have more tools in your toolkit and you’ll learn to become a fair and cohesive manager. And while no one is perfect, we can be assertive, confident and influential leaders for a cause or a mission that is bigger than ourselves, like our university, which has outlived all of us!
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Tagged: Equity, diversity and inclusion