The Advancing Leadership Blog

Four Traits of Women Who Lead

by Catherine Osler, President of TEC Canada

TEC Canada recognizes the importance of having a more gender-balanced approach to leadership roles. reported that according to studies, firms with women on their boards “outperform their rivals with a 42% higher return on sales, 66% higher return on invested capital and 53% higher return on equity.” Quite simply, women look at problems differently and often take a more empathic approach to leadership.  TEC’s peer groups are designed to challenge the status quo and encourage dynamic, inspiring conversations to process the issues senior executives face on an ongoing basis.  We welcome more women to contribute to this dialogue and this starts with having exceptional Chairs to guide that process.

While all of our Chairs have many awards and accolades, we would be remiss if we didn’t recognize two of our own successful women leaders:

  • Joyce Groote, Vancouver Chair is receiving the Influential Women in Business award on March 3, 2014.
  • Katherine Crewe from Montreal is one of TEC Canada’s newest Chairs.  She was recognized as one of the Top 100 Businesswomen to Watch by Entreprendre Magazine.

These women, along with all our Chairs, are committed to the relentless pursuit of excellence and providing their members with the tools to achieve success. I invite you to join me in recognizing International Women’s Day on March 8th. It doesn’t matter if you are a successful entrepreneur, a corporate executive, a new manager – or someone who is at a crossroads in her career and wondering “what’s next?” You are part of a sea of change in leadership style and behavior.

Sheryl Sandberg’s bestseller “Lean In” paints a vivid picture of how far women in leadership still have to go:
• Out of 100 global heads of state, only nine are women,
• In the corporate sector, just 15 to 20 per cent of C-suite jobs are held by women, and
• In the non-profit sector, women hold only 20 percent of the top positions.

Helping women to develop their leadership potential has been a passion of mine and a key professional commitment I made many years ago. After more than two decades of executive consulting, study at some of North America’s most recognized leadership institutes, and my role as CEO of TEC, I have found the successful women leaders I have coached and worked with over the years generally all share four particular traits. What follows is a brief look at these four and what some of the world’s most successful women CEOs have to say about them.

1. Believe in Yourself
Believing in yourself – your vision, your aspirations and dreams – will drive you forward especially on those days when you can’t see the forest for the trees. Author J.K. Rowling, fashion icon Coco Chanel, Body Shop Founder Anita Roddick – these are women with resolute beliefs in themselves despite their many critics and naysayers. Rowling, who was named the “Most Influential Woman in Britain” by leading magazine editors in 2010, achieved publishing success only after several years of constant rejection. “I was convinced the only thing I wanted to do was to write novels. So what’s the worst that could happen? Everyone turned me down; big deal,” she said.

2. Value Perseverance
Building a business, moving forward in your career and leading organizations all require dogged determination. Whatever obstacles may be put in your path, it is essential to move forward, modelling for your employees, colleagues and customers that you will not back down from a challenge. Cosmetic icon Estée Lauder once said, “I didn’t get there by wishing for it or hoping for it, but by working for it.”

3. Stay Focused
The power to set both short- and long-term goals should never be underestimated. Goals are the road-map to success and goal-setting takes place daily, weekly, monthly and annually. Consider what Mary Kay Ash, Founder of global cosmetic company Mary Kay, once said, “We must have a theme, a goal, a purpose in our lives. If you don’t know where you are aiming, you don’t have a goal.My goal is to live my life in such a way that when I die, someone will say ‘she cared.’” Staying focused is about knowing what you want, then mapping your path with the goals and measures to achieve it.

4. Be a Smart Risk-Taker
To truly accomplish great things, you must go outside your comfort zone because that’s where growth happens. As Sandberg says, this is where you need to “lean in,” raising your hand for opportunities and stepping into new challenges.

Never underestimate that quiet inner voice and its ability to lead and guide you forward. Your inner wisdom – something women are generally closer to – can help you to accurately assess risk. Calculated risks can lead to payoffs beyond what you thought possible.

Martha Stewart, who through her savvy, grit and determination created a brand and a business enterprise that has weathered all kinds of difficulties, maintains “it is within everyone’s grasp to be a CEO.” I am committed to making TEC the kind of organization where women business leaders can achieve beyond what they thought possible. If you are aiming to move your leadership skills and abilities to a new level contact me at

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