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How Ursula M. Burns Saved Xerox from Bankruptcy (And Five Reasons Why Women Make Amazing Leaders)

All successful businesswomen have a few things in common. The best thing is that you also have them, and you just need to learn how to get the most out of them.




When you look at Ursula M. Burns today, you’ll see an elegant businesswoman who has everything under control. But it wasn’t always like that. In 2001, she almost single-handedly saved Xerox from bankruptcy. Thanks to her honesty and her brave ideas, she practically reinvented the company and created the Xerox as we know it today.


Her strategy was simple too. Ursula was always open and transparent, whether she was talking with shareholders or clients. She wasn’t afraid to make tough decisions, but she knew that she had to stick to them once made. She wasn’t afraid of showing up and taking all the responsibility.


Ursula’s path wasn’t an easy one. She comes from a poor single mother household. Fast forward years later and she became the first black female CEO of a Fortune 500 company. However, Ursula is no different than other women leaders. All of them learned how to tap into their inner power and get the most out of it.


You can do the same. The first step is to become aware that, as a woman, you already have a lot of characteristics that make you a great leader.




The Reasons


Psychologists and HR professionals can agree that women are effective leaders and there’s also science to prove that. Here are some of the traits that make women great leaders and how to get the most out of the traits inherent in you.


They Can Wear Many Hats


Ever since childhood, women have had to learn to balance many roles. They may be great students at school, but they also have various hobbies and they always make time to be a good sister to their siblings. Their responsibilities become more significant as they grow up, but they learn to handle them with ease.


Multiple studies have shown that women are better at multitasking than men. Not to say that multitasking is something that you should do on a daily basis. However, if you need to do it, you’re much likely to handle it, without too much stress or confusion. Situations like this only help you polish your skills and become even more effective.


Women are great leaders because they have the ability to transform from a motivator to a psychologist within seconds. They switch roles with ease and they quickly enter new roles and learn new skills when the situation calls for it.


They’re Effective at Motivating Others


Women have a lot of empathy, which is an essential trait of every great leader. Compassion doesn’t only serve to understand other people and their life situations, but it can also have a more practical role. For example, it’s essential in motivating others.


The best motivators know that you can’t use the same approach with all people. What motivates one person may not mean anything to another. Let’s take an imaginary company as an example. There are people all ages working there – those who have recently graduated, young mothers, older people.


If you want to motivate them by offering some benefits, you have to be able to put yourself in their shoes and understand what they actually need. Women are great at understanding other people’s emotions and needs, and they’re much likely to find an appropriate way to motivate them. And in a way that other people truly appreciate.


They’re Outstanding Communicators


Communication skills are a great example of transferable skills, and the good news is that most women have them. Transferable skills are skills or behaviours that you can apply in various situations and fields. For example, even if you change your career, some skills learned while you were on your previous job may still be useful to you.


Women have been practising their communication skills ever since they were young girls and through the school years. Meeting new people, adapting to new environments, fixing problems and arguments. These skills are important later when a woman starts her own family, though they can be even more crucial at the workplace.


Most women enjoy conversations on a variety of topics and they like to solve problems through communication. That’s an incredible advantage and they even get to polish the skill daily. As if at will, they can use the skill to negotiate and build relationships. This is especially handy when they need to solve an issue between colleagues.


They Foster Collaboration


Women are team players! They understand that a group of people can do a lot more than an individual. If you want to have harmony in your team, you need a leader who fosters collaboration. You don’t want someone disinterested and uncaring about relationships within the team.


Women leaders are able to identify the strengths and weaknesses of team members. Rather than using it against them, they use this knowledge to organise their teams better and promote cooperation. They do this in a natural way so no one feels left out or ashamed.

If they have to choose between competing with someone and collaborating with them, women will usually choose the first option. It’s in their nature to always seek to connect with other people and make friends instead of competitors. It’s a very wise approach in the long run.


They understand that there’s no point of being the winner if you’re alone and have no one to share it with. It’s all about community and support, both in good and in bad.


They Overcome the Odds


Let’s face it. Women have to overcome so many challenges if they want to become leaders in the first place. Today, while there are more women in leadership positions than ever, their number is still low compared to their male counterparts. They still have a long way to go and those that succeed are more resilient than most of the population.


Women leaders have had more obstacles than men. Maybe they come from a traditional family or community with certain roles and professions reserved only for men. They had to fight to prove they’re capable of doing that job. These women will do everything it takes to achieve the goals of their team.


Just the fact that they’ve come to the leadership position can tell a lot about these women. It shows their persistence, resilience, and strength. They also have soft skills such as adaptability and emotional intelligence. And most importantly, they never ever give up. When they set themselves on something, chances are they’ll achieve it.


You Have Everything You Need


As you can see, all women are born with these characteristics. All you have to do is pay attention to your strengths and use them to your advantage. If you’re not aware of your leadership traits, maybe you just haven’t discovered them yet. But they’re within you.

If you need help in reawakening these skills, I’m here for you. You may want to check out my speaking services, where I share tons of practical tips for women leaders.

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