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Best Workplaces™ Managed By Women – Why Leadership Style Matters

 Best Workplaces™ Managed By Women – Why Leadership Style Matters

Best Workplaces Leadership & Management Women in the Workplace


Women are slowly but surely making their way to the top of more and more Canadian businesses. Whether they start the organizations themselves or advance through the ranks, women leaders are influencing businesses from coast to coast to coast and their particular style is especially relevant given the upheaval we have seen as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic and its fallout. People are stressed and anxious, remote work has highlighted the struggle for work-life balance and many people are examining their priorities and figuring out what exactly they want from work and life in general.

Empathy, collaboration and inclusiveness, traits that have traditionally been associated with female-led teams, have emerged as key leadership tools so it is no surprise that the Best Workplaces™ Managed By Women demonstrate these characteristics consistently. We’ll look at each specifically and uncover lessons to be learned.

Empathic Leadership

Life is busy. The pandemic has added stresses we didn’t know existed. People from all walks of life are seeking balance and reexamining their priorities. It’s generally a time for open discussions, sharing personal information, addressing mental health issues and simply tuning-in to how people are feeling. And doing this well hinges on empathy – taking genuine interest in other people’s lives, their challenges and their emotions. To lead with empathy means being approachable, thinking about how others might react in a certain situation, and being flexible and supportive.

Employees at the Best Workplaces™ Managed By Women enjoy empathic leadership and they agree strongly with the following statements:

My manager is approachable, easy to talk with.


People care about each other here.


My manager shows a sincere interest in me as a person, not just an employee.


And while empathy is thought of as an innate trait, we can all learn to be more empathic and improve our skills in this area. Some of the key areas to focus on are:

Listen – give people your full attention.

  • Don’t interrupt, resist the urge to think ahead to your next point and stay focused in the moment.
  • Attend to non-verbal cues like facial expression, arm position, body position, etc.
  • Repeat what the other person is saying to let them know you do indeed understand their point of view.

Be Open – it’s more than an ‘open door’ policy.

  • Be authentic and share information about yourself.
  • Talk candidly and don’t be afraid to share your opinions, while remembering to respect the opinions of others.
  • Ask for feedback and give it honestly and regularly.

Care Deeply – don’t just say it, mean it.

  • Show your appreciation often.
  • Give people the benefit of the doubt and seek to understand when difficulties emerge.
  • Develop policy and practice from the perspective of caring – give them what they want, and need, to feel cared for.

Collaborative Leadership

When leaders are empathic they are drawn to practices that promote collaboration and trust. Being attuned to others means knowing their strengths, understanding what they need to be successful and trusting them to deliver their best. And that’s precisely what collaborative leaders do. They communicate effectively, they delegate appropriately and they trust intrinsically, allowing their people to flourish. 

This type of leadership is highly evident at the Best Workplaces™ Managed by Women with employees giving strong support for the following statements:

My manager recognizes honest mistakes as part of doing business.


My manager trusts people to do a good job without watching over their shoulders.


People here are given a lot of responsibility.


My manager genuinely seeks and responds to suggestions and ideas.


Being a collaborative leader involves seeking out diverse ideas and opinions, building strategies together, and allowing employees to take ownership of their work. The need to work collaboratively has reached new heights as many people choose to work from home or are adopting a hybrid work model versus spending all of their time in the office. To be more collaborative you can work on the following:

  • Define your purpose and help everyone understand the common goal.
  • Break down traditional chains of command that impede open exchange of ideas.
  • Acknowledge you don’t have all the answers and ask for genuine input.
  • Invest in tools that allow for easy collaboration (instant messaging, video conferencing, cloud-based platforms and project management hubs) and create space in-office for people to work together.
  • Encourage risk taking by valuing and recognizing innovation and accepting that not every new idea will be successful.
  • Support skill development and help everyone discover their talents and passions enabling them to contribute their best every day.

Inclusive Leadership

If the pandemic had one positive effect it’s that people are examining their priorities. And part of that means they are focusing on the fundamental conditions of their workplace. Fairness and respect are essential – people want to work in a place where they feel they belong and where all people are elevated and given an opportunity to succeed. Now, more than ever, it is imperative that leaders create a sense of belonging, embrace diversity and include marginalized voices. To do this well, means being an inclusive leader and the women-led organizations on our list are excelling in this area with strong support for statements like the following amongst their employees:

People here are treated fairly regardless of their age, race or ethnicity, gender, or sexual orientation


I can be myself with my team.


I am treated as a full member here regardless of my position.


Feeling included creates a sense of comfort for people – they are more willing to share their ideas, take risks, and talk openly. Without this fundamental sense of belonging even the most empathic, collaborative leader may not be able to bring out everyone’s full potential and that means organizations and teams suffer as much as the individual. To be truly inclusive requires effort – it’s not enough to say you value inclusiveness and let it happen organically. You have to actually practice inclusive behaviours consistently. Here are some things to keep in mind:

  • Build authentic relationships – refer back to empathy and commit to seeing people for who they are as individuals first, and team members second.
  • Encourage camaraderie – help people build social connections at work by finding common interests and creating opportunities for having fun together,
  • Broaden your definition of diversity – gender, age, race, religion, ability, sexual identity and other common, protected employee groups are important but so too are employees who work remotely, or who job share, or who are introverts. Think deliberately about how you ensure ALL employees are participating and contributing.
  • Be purposeful in your diversity efforts – bring people together in unexpected ways. Think about committees, special project teams and teams for in-office competitions as opportunities to increase awareness and appreciation for the differences and similarities among you.
  • Ask for feedback on how inclusive you are, do some serious self-reflection and think about how you might be non-inclusive without even realizing it. Do you have a ‘go-to’ person that you rely on but makes others feel excluded? Do you have a hobby or sport that you talk about with certain people that excludes others from the conversation? Do you have a pet-project and that team gets more attention? All of these types of behaviours send a subtle message that erodes the feeling of belonging.

Leaders who demonstrate empathy, who encourage collaboration and who are inclusive reflect the leadership style of today’s most successful leaders. The leaders at the Best Workplaces™ Managed by Women exemplify these and many more attributes of great leaders and they are helping to set-up everyone for success – individuals and organizations alike.

Is your organization ready to win a Best Workplaces™ award? Great Place to Work-Certification™ is the first step to being recognized as a people-first organization. Learn how you can earn the prestige of Certification and be named to one of our Best Workplaces lists today. 

About Great Place to Work®

Great Place to Work® is the Global Authority on Workplace Culture. We make it easy to survey your employees, uncover actionable insights and get recognized for your great company culture. Learn more about Great Place to Work Certification.

Nancy Fonseca
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