Five female leadership qualities that will spur business success

12 March 2015


There are more female leaders in business – and that means we should pay more attention to their leadership styles. A senior figure from the hospitality sector offers her tips on effective management

Inge Van Ooteghem

Female business leaders are on the rise. A recent government report of October 2014 showed that 22.8% of directors of FTSE 100 companies are now female – up from 20.7% in March 2014. Female representation in the boardroom is continuing to grow, and it is certainly an exciting time to be a woman in business. The art of leadership in business is often hard to define: there isn’t a one-size-fits-all definition of what it takes to be a good leader. But there are some key traits and characteristics that are vital for all successful business leaders.

1. Show ambition

Set yourself high goals and be prepared to put in a lot of hard work. At the start of my career, I was a receptionist at Accor, and I strived to progress within the company. By giving yourself a goal, you have something to work towards, something to strive for.


Over these last 25 years, Accor has enabled me to grow – but what is equally important is that you create opportunities for yourself. For example, put yourself forward for projects, take on extra responsibilities – show everyone around you that you want to grow and learn.

2. Lead by example

Earning the respect of your team is essential to any role, especially a leadership one. People respect a leader who is willing to complete tasks that they would ask others to do. And remember, actions speak louder than words. Saying one thing and then doing another is a quick way to lose the respect and trust of your team. All rules must all apply to everyone – including management.

3. Be approachable

A strong business leader should make any member of their workforce, no matter how junior, feel comfortable enough to share ideas and experiences. Establishing a reputation as being approachable will only strengthen relationships with your team and allows you to connect with people on a personal level. Showing humility and respect is a key trait in leadership. Treat others how you’d like to be treated.

4. Build support networks

It is important to build a network of friends, family and colleagues, who will support you when you most need it but also to motivate and inspire you to push yourself. Specialist women’s networks and industry groups are also valuable for professional and personal development. They provide an opportunity for you to learn from other people’s experiences as well as sharing your own.

At Accor we launched an international women’s network called Women in Accor Generation to fight stereotypes and help to promote gender equality across the entire business. Groups like this are a vital forum for both women and men to share their experiences and give them confidence to fulfil their potential.

5. Ensure you have a balanced home life

The most successful business leaders make sure that they maintain a good balance between their career and their home life. It doesn’t have to be a case of prioritising one over the other, but a poor balance can result in extra stress at home and reduced productivity at work. Take up some hobbies outside of work and find out what employee benefits your company offers, such as flexible working or childcare. It is important to be part of a workplace that supports a healthy work-life balance.

In conclusion, everything is possible if you work hard and seize every opportunity. Being a successful leader is about trusting your own ability, creating opportunities for you and your team to learn and grow together as well as having the determination to succeed. International Women’s Day reminded us that it is important for women to believe in themselves and know that with the right mentality, gender is no longer a barrier to becoming a respected business leader.

Inge Van Ooteghem is senior vice president of economy and budget hotels at Accor UK & Ireland.

For Purpose, People and Potential ideas that will help to boost your organisational capability, check out CMI’s Management 2020 report.

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