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Karen Edwards Blogger

Five Steps to Developing Your Leadership Style

Posted by Karen Edwards | January 20, 2016

Happy 2016 ÖWLI members! We are thrilled to begin our second year and are looking forward to some exciting events! You should have recently received an invitation to our second book club event being held March 4. And very soon you will receive an invitation to register for our Össur Women's Leadership Conference being held Sept. 15-17 at our Orlando facility (see the calendar at the end of the blog for more details). We plan to make 2016 even bigger and better than last year, so please continue to encourage your peers to register for our initiative at!

This month we continue our education on leadership by focusing on developing your personal leadership style. Every person who takes on a leadership position finds themselves faced with developing their own personal style of leadership. This is challenging for anyone, but for women, especially young women, they are faced with what the Wall Street Journal describes as a "double blind." If women assert themselves forcefully, people may perceive them as not acting feminine enough, triggering a backlash. But if they act in a stereotypically feminine way, they aren't seen as strong leaders. [1]

One major problem, they site, is a shortage of female role models, something we have faced historically within the O&P profession. "People often learn leadership styles by observing others; but there are often few female executives to observe. Women can watch male leaders, too, of course, but men can't illustrate how to navigate female stereotypes." So faced with this challenge, how do we develop a style that will be both respected and effective? Here are five tips to help you achieve this:

  1. Find leaders you admire and solicit feedback on leadership techniques. Find a superior you respect within your workplace, observe their traits, how they interact within a team, and how they work under pressure. Solicit feedback from them regarding what is and isn't working with your leadership style. It is especially helpful if you have a female mentor at your workplace as she will be more in tune with the leadership challenges you are facing. Keep in mind that our ÖWLI blog highlights female leaders in the O&P field quarterly and is a great resource for finding leaders within our own industry.
  2. Ask superiors to back you up when others second guess you. According to the WSJ article, when your leadership is questioned, "Women should ask their bosses to be ready to explain why they were chosen and what skills they bring to the position. Many women don't ask for this support." Your superiors wouldn't promote you or assign you leadership roles if they didn't believe in you, and their spoken support can squelch any mistakenly negative perceptions that might arise.
  3. Be authentic. With so few female role models in our profession, when we look for leaders to emulate, we are often forced to choose from traditional male leadership styles. However, in an article in Forbes, Kelly Azevedo argues that this is an ineffective way to develop our own authentic style. She quotes Professional Mentor and Career Acceleration Coach Sarah Hathorn, "Women who lead by mimicking men reveal a lack of professional identity. Professional confidence is not gender-based; it's all about authenticity and developing the qualities that resonate with who you are." [2] She advises that "Embodying your authentic leadership style is a process, but it sends a powerful statement and commands respect. In the end it's not about conformity or mimicry, but looking within yourself to find the style that resonates with you and wearing it, inside and out, with confidence."
  4. Create a network of female professionals within your industry. Reaching out to and collaborating with others in your own profession who are facing the same challenges is a great way to garner confidence, find solutions, and expose yourself to leadership styles that may not exist in your own workplace. Many O&P practices have only one female practitioner which makes it hard to find the leadership examples and empathy you need to grow. Consider attending the Össur Women's Leadership Conference in Orlando in September where you can meet and interact with other women in the field and address issues and topics of particular concern to all of us.
  5. Be confident.  Research has shown that women make exceptionally strong leaders. In 2011 the Harvard Business Review conducted a survey of 7280 leaders in business and found that at every level, women were rated by their peers, bosses and direct reports as better overall leaders than their male counterparts. Surprisingly, women scored highest in taking initiative and driving for results, strengths predominantly considered to be "male." [3] So, though you may not have a female example within your workplace, be confident that you DO have the skills necessary to be a highly effective leader.

We hope these tips are helpful to you as you grow your career. And as more and more of you become leaders, managers, and practice owners, the easier it will be for young women entering the field to find examples of the leaders they want to be.

MARK YOUR CALENDARS:  Reserve a spot on your schedule for the following upcoming ÖWLI events…

Mar. 4, 2016:  ÖWLI Book Club. Our second ÖWLI Book Club is underway, and this quarter we are reading, "How Remarkable Women Lead: The Breakthrough Model for Work and Life," by Joanna Barsh and Susie Cranston. Described as the "new right stuff" of leadership, raising provocative issues such as whether feminine leadership traits (for women and men) are better suited for our fast-changing, hyper-competitive, and increasingly complex world. You can find the book easily on Amazon (approximately $9). This will be a motivating and interesting read, and we can't wait to talk about it together! FYI, we have scheduled two discussion times to accommodate folks in different time zones. And congratulations to last quarter's five book winners:  Madison Van Savage, Mary Walsh, Julianne Gupta, Michelle Eckes, and Brianne Laborde.  Register now! If you didn't receive the invitation, just email us at and we'll forward it to you.

Sept. 15-17, 2016:  Össur Women's Leadership Initiative Conference, Orlando, FL. Join us for a FIRST-CLASS education and networking event at Össur's Orlando facility.  This three-day conference will focus on issues relevant to female O&P practitioners as well as leadership development. CEU's will be offered for eligible courses and topics include leadership development, career development led by a panel of female O&P owners, and product development input featuring Össur engineers. Best of all, the event is FREE and includes most meals! A registration email will be out soon and be sure to register early as spaces are limited!

Join our Facebook page! The ÖWLI Facebook page offers a forum for you to communicate with other women in the profession. Please use this page to ask questions, share informative articles and ideas, and stay up to date on everything ÖWLI. Just search for "Ossur Women's Leadership Initiative." Thanks, as always, for being a part of ÖWLI and continue to submit ideas and suggestions as to how we can help you develop as a leader via email, Facebook or Twitter!

Until February,

Karen Edwards

Director, Össur Women's Leadership Initiative


ÖWLI Quote of the Month:  "The question isn't 'who is going to let me'; it's 'who is going to stop me'." – Ayn Rand, novelist, philosopher, playwright and screenwriter


Talk to us!! Your feedback is welcomed and encouraged! Please let us know what you think of our initiative, share your ideas, share your victories, or just say "hi" by emailing us at And follow us on Twitter @OWLIOssur and Facebook at Össur Women's Leadership Initiative page.

[1] "Advice for Women on Developing a Leadership Style," by Erin White, The Wall Street Journal, August 28, 2007, 

[2] "3 Tips for Women to Develop a More Authentic Leadership Style," Kelly Azevedo, Forbes, September 20, 2012, //

[3] "Are Women Better Leaders than Men?" Jack Zenger and Joseph Falkman, Harvard Business Review, March 15, 2012, //