Women Executives Are Showing the Next Generation How to Lead With Empathy

Be the loudest voice in the room. Show up early, stay late. Take up space. Don’t show emotion. The era of act-like-a-man-to-be-an-effective-leader is behind us. And, thanks to the courage of the women taking over the C-suite, the industry is entering a new chapter of leadership.

As part of the Pass the Mic initiative, SXM Media sat down with hundreds of accomplished women executives to dive deep into their career paths and leadership philosophies. What has made them successful? How do they approach their teams to drive commitment and growth? And a key discovery is that it all boils down to a level of kindness that hasn’t been seen in the workplace until now.

But make no mistake: Kindness is not weakness or lack of ambition. According to McKinsey’s “Women in the Workplace 2023” report, women are more ambitious than ever, with the number of women wanting to get promoted growing 10% over the past four years. And this new approach to leadership is benefiting everyone, including the bottom line.

Take note of some of the women blazing new trails and the unwritten rules they’ve developed along the way that completely redefine leadership.

Lead with empathy

One of the best ways to drive motivation and loyalty on teams is to connect with them on a human level. As a leader, you want people at their best; and to be at their best, they need to take care of themselves. Completely separating home life from work life is sometimes not possible, and it’s crucial to take that into account as a manager.

“We’re all people at the end of the day, and everybody has rough days,” shares Jacs Wyatt, head of digital marketing and social commerce, Samsung. “I’ve told my team: If you had your heart broken, that’s no different than having your arm broken. Take a day off. Take time off. Take care of yourself and come back refreshed.”

Acknowledge what you don’t know

It’s ok to not know. In fact, SXM Media is seeing that one of the trending qualities of the best leaders is the ability to recognize your weaknesses and hire a strong team around you that fills in those gaps.

“When I first started ADCOLOR, I didn’t know what I didn’t know. I did not approach any situation like I had it together or I knew,” explains Tiffany R. Warren, EVP, chief diversity and inclusion officer, Sony Music Group. “In fact, 80% of the time I didn’t know what I was doing. I would sit with my more experienced colleagues, and just listen and soak in all the information I could.”

Be OK with mistakes

Failures can actually be the biggest learnings—if approached properly. And although it can feel as if people are working under a microscope, not everything has to be perfect. It often comes down to how you handle the mistake that really matters.

“I think a lot of it is just being your authentic self and being vulnerable. It makes you more approachable as a leader,” says Hilary Batsel, senior director, global media, Microsoft. “I don’t think I learned that personally until later on in my life where I just thought everything had to be perfect. Especially as a female in the industry, you feel like you have to show up on point all the time. And the fact of the matter is, we’re human and we sometimes make some mistakes, and we learn from those mistakes. And I really think I grew as a leader by embracing that and being more vulnerable to my team and showing them that, yeah, I have my own fallacies too.”

Say bye to the boys’ club

There’s a new cigar room in town–and it’s the community of female leaders. There are powerful networks growing, and women are rallying around each other like never before. It’s crucial for those with a seat at the table to pull up others and get them into the room.

“I think that one of the biggest influences for me has actually been working with women that I really admire and love and respect,” shares Abi Evans, chief growth officer, Dentsu Creative U.S. “We have different rules—but we can still play the game the way that a man would. But, in our own terms, and advance just as quickly as a result.”

Create a new kind of powerful

Traditional leadership roles have always been geared toward men; get big, be tough and be the strongest one in the room. But women take a different approach: putting egos aside, really listening to what others have to say, and connecting with their environment and the people around them are proven characteristics that come from strong female leaders. Women have been breaking down barriers and bending the rules to prove that they don’t need a man’s mentality to be just as successful.

If you didn’t get it before, you get it now—women are changing the game. SXM Media is seeing trends across the board of womanhood being redefined. Women have built strong communities packed with cultural influencers, trendsetters and game changers, and there’s no slowing down in sight. Whether women are making changes in societal norms or busting through traditional molds of womanhood, it’s all happening in the boardroom, too.

To hear more inspiring advice and more, check out SXM Media’s Pass The Mic Podcast, a show made by women, for women; creating a community for women to share their wisdom, get inspired and pave the way for future generations. Female podcasters are a force to be reckoned with, and in the theme of women setting trends and paving the way, 48% of podcast listeners identify as women, meaning advertisers have a prime setting for reaching female consumers. Not to mention 55% of female listeners say they would listen to even more podcasts if there were shows that included female stories and perspectives.

Women are revolutionizing how things are done. In their homes, as a part of society and in the boardroom, women are kicking ass and taking names. Make sure your ad dollars are in the right place: Support female-run businesses and podcasts, find empathy in your relationships and light the torch for the next generation of female leaders.