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'Be the great leader you already are'

Caroline Williams, former chief executive of Norfolk Chamber of Commerce. 
Picture: ANTONY KELLY

Caroline Williams, former chief executive of Norfolk Chamber of Commerce. Picture: ANTONY KELLY

Archant Norfolk 2016

Former Norfolk Chamber chief executive Caroline Williams gives her tips on effective leadership.

What I believe creates a great leader, male or female, is the ability to be honest with yourself about your strengths, and recognise areas for improvement.

How you see yourself will affect not only how people see you but the respect you will receive.

Getting yourself into the “right state” is essential to maximise your potential. This means being able to access all your positive resources, physical and mental.

One of the greatest challenges, irrespective of gender, is to recognise what neuroscience now proves: it’s those pesky “thinking errors” which can have such a dramatic effect on our emotions, our physical state and ultimately our actions.

And that’s where women in particular can make life harder for themselves. We let in negative thoughts such as “I knew this would happen”, “I will be found out”, “I am responsible for everything and everybody”, “I know she thinks I am useless”... I could go on.

It’s true that men also have these thoughts, but on the whole, they’re better at not letting them affect their emotional state, and their subsequent actions.

I believe it’s a lack of confidence that makes life tough for many women. It stops them thinking they’re good enough to be great leaders – despite significant evidence to the contrary.

That lack of confidence is a negative attitude, and it needs to stop right now!

Norfolk needs its very talented business women to recognise their worth and to challenge their own negative thinking. How can you convince others that you are, or could be, a great leader if you don’t believe it yourself?

There is serious research which proves that 85% of what we worry about never happens. So, next time you feel negativity and self-doubt, check if there is any hard evidence to back it up. You’ll be surprised how often there’s none.

Be honest with yourself. Staying stuck in your comfort zone can be tempting, but stretch yourself. All I ask is that, especially as a woman, you challenge your negative thoughts and allow yourself to be the great leader you, quite possibly, already are.

Caroline Williams MBE is the former chief executive of Norfolk Chamber of Commerce and now offers management and leadership coaching.

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