leader-312276_640Leadership today requires a feminine touch.

Tell your kids to do something? Forget it. They’ll either ignore you or do the opposite. Find a way to influence their thinking so they learn to make wise decisions? Well, that’s a different story.

This is as true in business as it is in parenting. You can’t just tell people to perform. Effective leadership today means influencing and collaborating with others, including people over whom you have no authority. And this happens to be an area in which women leaders excel.

Fortune recently published a list of “World’s Greatest Leaders,” including 15 women leaders. It wasn’t enough to be powerful to get on the list. Fortune “set out to find singular leaders with vision who moved others to act as well, and who brought their followers with them on a shared quest.”

Translation: leaders with influence.

Lead Like a Woman

While there are exceptions to every rule, women leaders don’t usually opt for a command-and-control approach. They bring their innate strengths, such as intense questioning and listening, to the table. They assess the long-term impact of decisions and include stakeholders in their deliberations.

Fortune writer Geoff Colvin sums this up nicely in his article, “The trait that makes women great leaders.” He writes:

What’s most striking about the 15 women in our new ranking of the World’s Greatest Leaders is how strongly they exemplify a new model of leadership. It’s a model in which leaders must influence a wide range of groups over which they have no direct authority, while those groups typically command much power of their own through their access to information and their ability to communicate with practically anyone. That kind of world demands a new kind of leadership, and while plenty of men on the list have mastered it, every one of the women has done it. And that’s no surprise … 

Extensive research shows how women are better suited to this kind of leadership … There’s no need to debate whether these differences are innate or learned; they’re clearly both. And in a world that favors leadership based on skills of personal interaction rather than on authority, women have a head start.

Read the rest of Colvin’s article to learn how each of the 15 women leaders exemplify influential leadership.

What This Means for Women in Sales

Saleswomen—whether they want to lead the team or simply lead the pack in making quota—have the innate ability to influence others. And that’s a powerful skill set in our profession.

Clients don’t want to be told what to do or think. They want to work with sales reps who listen, ask questions, consider their ideas, make compelling suggestions, and genuinely care about the impact solutions will have on their businesses.

The lesson for women in sales: You don’t have to be pushy to get ahead. Just be your influential self. Invest in the long-term relationships that you foster so well. You’ll close deals that matter and leave others wondering how you did it.

Want to learn more about the innate strengths that help women succeed at selling? Watch my webcast with Jamie Domenici, vice president of marketing and analytics for Salesforce.

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