The future of leadership is female


But if youre going to rule the world, you might still need to break some harmful habits to be an effective leader in veterinary practice.

You don't have to have superhuman abilities to manage effectively. (Creativa Images / Being a female leader in today's world still takes a considerable amount of effort-especially since many people interpret a self-aware, confident woman as being inappropriately aggressive, while a man can behave the same way without anyone batting an eye. This has resulted in female leaders either giving in to the stereotype of being the top-dog mean girl who doesn't care who she hurts or how she comes across, or swinging in the opposite direction and feeling the need to be timid and reserved in her approach. Let's discuss the common pitfalls that female leaders encounter to find a happy, assertive balance.

Timid language

Female leaders still use a lot more “just,” “maybe,” “do you think,” “if we can,” and “possibly” language in their communications than their male counterparts. We need to stop being so apologetic and timid with our thoughts. Take your stance and communicate it with assertiveness. Scan your emails before sending and eliminate this passive language as much as possible.


Tackle conflict effectively by addressing it directly and in a professional manner. Do not engage in the gossip. Take a deep breath before reacting emotionally in the moment or participating in talk behind people's back. Give yourself some space and discuss your issues head-on. Once the discussion is over, no matter what your thoughts, try not to hold a grudge and get back to work. We don't all have to be best friends-we're not always going to agree-but the best we can do is communicate our thoughts and concerns, and problem-solve to the best of our abilities.

Unnecessary apologies

You don't need to apologize for your ideas! Stop backing down from ideas with “Sorry, I just thought … ” or requesting help by saying “Sorry, but do you think  ….” You don't need to be sorry all of the time-the need for true apologies is rare. If you use the phrase less often, not only will you appear more confident, the word will carry more weight when it actually needs to be used.

Letting interruptions slide

Studies have shown that women get interrupted during meetings more frequently than men. In order to shift this dynamic, speak in a loud, confident voice when you have a thought. If someone else interrupts you, respond with “I actually need to communicate an idea on that topic,” or address the interruptions head-on and suggest a new meeting method so everyone gets an equal chance to speak.

Tearing down other women

Some women are intimidated by other women in leadership positions and feel the only way to make themselves look better is by bringing their female colleagues down. This really only makes the person doing the trash-talking look unprofessional. If more women are going to progress in leadership roles, we need to support each other and not make it a constant contest. There's room for us all, and we're all in this together. 

People-pleasing tendencies

It's good to be thoughtful and considerate of others, but don't think that in order to move up in a company, you need to constantly do things outside of your job description because other people need help. Sometimes you're going to need to let people down so you can tend to your own responsibilities. If you focus more energy on excelling in your specific role rather than taking on too many unnecessary tasks, you will thrive as a leader. You also won't become the clinic's doormat.

Women can and should be a powerful presence in the workplace, especially in a female-dominated field like veterinary medicine. If you watch out for these stumbling blocks along the way, you're sure to embody strength and confidence in your role and be acknowledged as an effective leader for your team.

Oriana Scislowicz, BS, LVT, aPHR is a Firstline Editorial Advisory Board member and practice manager at CVCA Cardiac Care for Pets in Richmond, Virginia.

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