Women in Leadership: 7 Characteristics of the Mentally Tough

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Who says women can’t be tough?

At some point in life, anyone can experience a critical moment that serves as a measure for mental toughness. Whether it’s dealing with a toxic colleague or friend, a dead-end in one’s career, or an unhealthy relationship, each person has their own crosses to bear. But while these trials can be difficult to overcome, they also serve a purpose: to teach people how to be resilient.

Whatever the challenge, many women in leadership remain strong. By taking a new perspective to see things through a new lens and acting decisively, they are able to overcome whatever challenges they face.

Sounds easy enough, right? The truth is that it’s harder than it seems.

Being mentally tough is challenging, especially if you feel stuck. Only those who can break the mold and move towards a new direction using sheer grit and spunk can be considered the mentally tough.

It’s fascinating how mentally tough women differentiate themselves from others, especially from men. Where most people see impenetrable walls, they only see challenges that they can overcome. This article will show you the characteristics of women in leadership that make them mentally tough.


1.   Emotional Intelligence

Anyone can be tough – women, most especially. One primary reason for this is the advantages they have when it comes to emotional intelligence.

As a cornerstone of mental toughness, emotional intelligence or EQ is an important quality for those performing leadership roles. After all, you cannot be a mentally tough leader without being able to understand and manage strong emotions fully (especially negative ones) and use them to become more productive.

The truth is that moments that put mental toughness to the test ultimately help determine a person’s EQ level. Unlike IQ, EQ is more flexible and can be improved with more effort and deeper understanding. This explains why 90 percent of top performers have high emotional intelligence.

Don’t get confused, though; this is not to say that men aren’t emotionally intelligent. Rather, women have some advantages with respect to emotional intelligence that they can use to achieve mental toughness.

For one, little girls are allowed by society to show empathy and express their emotions through language. They are even allowed to prioritize learning how to develop meaningful relationships through play (i.e., playing with dolls).

When it comes to sports, both genders have the opportunity to develop mental toughness. However, many boys end up honing harder skills like aggression more and rely on it during stressful times. As for girls, they grow up to become women with softer skills, such as self-awareness and empathy.


2.   The Ability to Embrace Constraints

Another trait that every mentally tough person has is the ability to embrace constraints. Although most people wish to believe that total freedom is what makes them better off, the truth is quite the opposite.

While some naively struggle to achieve as much freedom as possible, happy people – who are also mentally tough – tend to embrace constraints. For women in leadership, success means being able to embrace failures first. In order to be perfect, the mentally strong embrace their imperfections.


3.   The Acceptance of Change

Being mentally tough means having the ability to accept change and adapt to it. Fearing change can be paralyzing, which can impede your chances of gaining success and happiness.

Instead, anticipate the changes that are about to happen and form a plan on how to act on it. Once you embrace what is to come, you should be able to find good in it. When you open your mind, you will be able to see what you can do to capitalize on the opportunities that those changes can create.

Remember that people who keep doing things exactly the same way and ignore change set themselves up to fail.


4.   Confidence

Being mentally tough also means having confidence in yourself. It is essentially subscribing to the idea that mentality has a powerful effect on your success rate.

A study from the University of Melbourne supported the notion that a person’s mentality can greatly affect his ability to succeed. Their research revealed that confident people tend to get promoted or get higher wages more quickly than others.

In contrast to the false confidence that people use to mask their insecurities, true confidence is about accepting and embracing a uniqueness that is totally you.

According to Kompass Consultancy co-founder Gaj Ravichandra, this is the difference between those who know true confidence and those who have a shallow grasp of the concept. It isn’t just about being able to deal with stressors and challenges individually. Instead, he believes that it involves the mastery of the ability to seek and accept aid where your limitations lie.


5.   Self-Awareness

Another key trait of the mentally tough women is self-awareness.

Without defining your identity and identifying your purpose and vision, you won’t be able to hone a tough mind. It is also important that you know your own weaknesses and strengths, your roles as well as your position and, ultimately, your goals.

Remember that women who are self-aware are mentally stronger because they know how to deal with circumstances according to their capabilities.


6.   The Ability to See Things As They Really Are

Realism – a concept that focuses on fact or reality and rejects the impractical and visionary – is another thing that separates mentally tough women from the rest. They can see things as they truly are and don’t make up stories to appease themselves.

If you want to become mentally strong, you have to stop seeking out stories that make you comfortable while hiding reality behind the curtain. Understanding and accepting things as they are lets you take effective action and overcome any adversity you may encounter.


7.   Embracing Uncertainty with Optimism

Many people need a forecast of the future to feel strong, but the truth is that uncertainty will always be there. There’s no way a person can predict what can happen with 100 percent accuracy, so it is best to embrace uncertainty.

Of course, merely accepting that you won’t know what would happen is only half of it. You also need to be optimistic about the future.

Remember that if there’s one thing that can propel you forward, it is hope. Hoping makes people take action towards the focus of their hopes. Without action, there’s bound to be no result.

If you are mentally tough, you can believe in yourself and have faith in the uncertainty of the future at the same time.


Achieve Mental Toughness

There are many ways to achieve a strong mind. Aside from knowing the qualities you must possess, you should also consider undergoing leadership training programs that help both men and women become better versions of themselves.



Leila Rezaiguia is the Co-Founder and Managing Partner at Kompass Consultancy, an innovative global talent management consultancy headquartered in Dubai and with offices in Abu Dhabi and Sydney that specialises in enabling individuals, organisations and educational institutions to achieve performance excellence and career success. Leila is a multi-lingual (English, Arabic and French) PCC Coach, Mentor Coach, Trainer, Facilitator and Business Mentor who is passionate about coaching, women in leadership, talent management and organisational development.

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