Five Leadership Strategies for Women in Business

This article originally appeared on the 2020 Women's Small Business Summit website.

We asked Katie McDonald, self-care strategist and CEO of bnourished®, for the top advice she gives women in business and female entrepreneurs.

Below are some fantastic insights on how to better serve yourself and your business, in Katie’s own words.

1. Get over yourself.

We are our own biggest obstacle. Get over yourself so the world is no longer deprived of the gifts you have to share. Allow yourself to make mistakes, and have faith in your ability to figure it out.

What’s enabled me to take risks is that I know when I screw up, I’m willing to take responsibility. I stay pretty vigilant; every day, I assess what worked, what didn’t work, what I did well and what I didn’t do well.

And when I haven’t done something well, I do my best to rectify it. It gives me permission to screw up. Because I’ll do everything I can to make it right.

2. Start with your habits.

Understand and respect who you are, how you function, what lights you up, what makes you at your best. Never for one moment underestimate the deep connection between you, your well-being, and your business. If your business is not thriving, I would encourage you to first look at yourself, and start with your habits. What are you eating, what are you thinking, what are you doing? That is the most effective way to turn your business around.

That’s why the work I do, a six-month deep dive into our habits and thoughts, all of the micro choices that we make—that we established decades ago and haven’t renegotiated—that’s why it’s such a dramatic gamechanger. When we see our lives through that lens, it’s fascinating. And then we start utilizing our strengths, outsourcing our weaknesses, and claiming the power of who we are.

3. Nurture your own voice.

A woman becomes truly powerful when she nurtures her own voice. Too often, we’re not pausing long enough to say, “Hey, what do I think here? What do I recommend?” And then we wonder why we have no confidence.

Our wisdom is already there. But we need to quiet ourselves long enough to hear it.

4. Set realistic expectations.

When I started my business, my son was young. The fact was, I wanted it to be a very part-time role for me so that I could tend to my responsibilities as a mom. And, yet, I was often holding myself to this standard as if I were working full-time. That discrepancy caused a lot of suffering.

It’s really important to get context in your life and set your expectations to that reality. We often weaponize that discrepancy instead, holding ourselves to standards that aren’t in alignment with the current and often temporary reality of our lives.

5. Stop asking for advice.

My clients are the people we all admire for their composure and confidence. Yet, when we start our work together, they initially report how much weight they give everyone else’s opinion before they’ve even formulated their own. So, my homework assignment for those clients is this: Don’t consult anybody else for the next two weeks. Between this session and the next, you’re going to feel the urge to do it, and I want you to stop and consult yourself.

We give our power away because we don’t have faith in ourselves. And what happens is that we end up not developing our leadership because we’re immediately hot potato-ing it. It comes to us, and we throw it away.

Women are consultative, and that’s a beautiful thing. But I believe we need to consult others only after we’ve consulted ourselves. Asking my clients to shut down their advice-seeking habit is a really powerful task, because they start getting their own voices, and they start listening less to other people and really tuning into themselves. And as the visionary and the entrepreneur or business owner, it’s really important they stay connected to themselves. For a business to be done well, it requires deep self-knowledge.

One last thing.

I think people want to wait to do things until they’re fearless. But if that happens, you’re playing small. Expect the fear; look for the fear. That’s how you know you’re playing big. Lean into that fear.

Katie