Yolandi Franken on How to Be a Successful Female Leader

What difficulties do female leaders go through? Can we speak of “feminine” leadership? Does leadership have a gender? In a culturally patriarchal society, how do you manage as a woman? All these questions were discussed with Yolandi Franken, a famous producer and TV host. Her experience in front of the camera is of no surprise to anyone, having started almost twenty years ago.

Yolandi has produced three feature films: Turbines, Tabernacle 101, and Streets of Colour and has three more projects coming up, Carmen and Bolude, New Kid at School and Tales of Tinderella. She has been a strong female voice in the media, and is also the chair of WIFTNSW and WIFT Virtual – Women in Film and Television. Needless to say, she has a lot to juggle in her life. Here’s her advice on how to do it right.

Cut the fat, to optimize your time

Life can have a lot of distractions and it is important to stay focused. Social media for example can be a distraction if you don’t manage it properly. Being connected only to relevant people and not accepting friend’s requests from just anyone can be very helpful. The same goes for socializing, it is a lot more fun than working, so can often be used as an excuse to procrastinate, especially if you are in charge of your own time opposed to working in an office job. For me it is particularly hard because I am a social person, and I would love to spend time with everyone.

But if I accept every social invitation, I will have absolutely no time for work.  So, I am very selective over whom I spend my time with, and I try to combine some social activities with work activities, so it creates some balance. For example, instead of meeting in an office, I’d meet at a nice restaurant where you can have a drink or two after the meeting. Or have a meeting on the beach (if practical). It is quicker than a social gathering and creates some balance. I also avoid unnecessary TV shows and responsibilities that bring no real value to my life.

Don’t compare yourself

As a woman, I think that constantly comparing yourself and your opportunities and outcomes to those of men is counterproductive. I am not denying the big gender gap, and I am an advocate for closing that gap. But at the same time, being consumed by it, and spending valuable brain power on trying to analyze and criticize is not going to change anything. For myself, I just focus on doing the best work that I can do, networking with the right people, and looking after the people I associate with.

There is no sex that is better at leading. Each sex, each personality and each person has their own way of managing and leading. Just as people need to be manage in different ways.  It is about knowing your style and your strength, and knowing the people around you.

As for women rising up as leaders and getting fair opportunities, I don’t think making a noise about it will be as effective as just taking on the role and demonstrate by example. If you are not been given that opportunity, take control of your destiny and create something for yourself. If you feel you are being discriminated against in a situation based on your sex, then I would find a way to solve the problem and get a smart “work-around” to show them your worth.

In saying that, it is very unfortunate that women constantly need to prove themselves, but I don’t think it is any different to any person having to prove themselves for whatever reason. I think that it will consume less energy and achieve more results than being bitter and making a noise. I prefer to lead by example.

Many people will disagree with me, but this is the mindset that has proven most healthy and most successful to me.

Breaking the mold and connecting with yourself

For many people around my age and older, growing up as a boy or a girl had clear guidelines. What girls did and wore and was treated, was different to boys. These days’ equality and freedom to be yourself is more acceptable, at least a little more. I remember feeling frustrated growing up feeling that I am not able to follow my dreams because I either won’t be accepted into a man’s world or I will have to work myself to the bone. It used to get me very depressed and frustrated. But as I grew older, I got more in touch with myself and who I truly am, without the stereotypes of society.

And at that time I made a pack with myself that I will always be true to myself and that I will always live in the moment, even if I have to push for it at times. If I have to work harder than men to survive in their world, then so be it.  Yes it is unfair, but I was not going to let anyone take away my right to be who I am and to do what I love. I was not going to settle for second best.  Yes, I believe I might have been further in life if I was a man or maybe not, but I don’t think about that much.  I just focus on being the best I can be.

Get to know yourself and challenge yourself

The question nagged me: in our society, do women have to copy men to be successful? Yolandi replies: no, no, and no! Already, because in fact, we are talking about men and women. We are talking about a multiplicity of identities, successes, forms of leadership and managerial functions.

For Yolandi, leading as a woman is knowing who you are, and not limiting yourself. This applies to anyone, male and female from any culture and race.

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