14/10/2015 8:11 AM IST | Updated 15/07/2016 8:25 AM IST

Goodbye Prince Charming

business woman using smartphone in office
MoMo Productions via Getty Images
business woman using smartphone in office

Fairy tales are intended to teach certain lessons to children. Many of the classics tell the story of a powerful, gallant and handsome man swooping in to rescue a damsel in distress. Once in the protective embrace of her prince charming, the defenceless princess would live happily ever after. Fortunately, modern retellings of these old tales have started diverging significantly from the formula. We need to take a cue from this in our real lives too.

In Shrek 3, the character Princess Fiona bands together with Sleeping Beauty, Snow White and Cinderella; they've been captured by Prince Charming and held prisoner in a castle. When Fiona asks all of them to think of a way out, Sleeping Beauty falls asleep, Snow White lies down and Cinderella keeps sitting. When Fiona asks what they are doing, and they inform her that they are "Waiting to be rescued." They obviously think that only a strong male figure can save them - they are conditioned to follow traditional gender roles. These old ideas are shaken when Fiona's mother, the Queen, head butts the brick wall and creates an escape route. After this point, the princesses feel empowered because they realise they can control their own fate and don't need to depend on a man.

For years, women have played by the "rules" and kept their heads down, hoping to be rescued but doing little else to change their circumstances. But today, women take their own decisions about the way they want to live, how they want to carve their career and lead from the front. The reason they are ready to take on the traditionally male role of breadwinner is due to self-belief. This change is making them leaders. Women who become leaders have enough self-belief to "rescue" themselves and deal with situations head on -- like the Queen in Shrek 3.

There are women leaders across industries, who have triumphed by just following their heart and pushing themselves to the limit because they believed, like men, that they too can achieve. Their numbers are increasing every day. And all women leaders have a common trait -- in spite of adversity they believed in themselves and had the courage to go ahead to achieve their goal. We are burdened by our history, true, but it is only by looking to the future that we can create and build a new world.

There are some unique qualities in women that make them conduct themselves differently from men in the workplace. Women are more collaborative in their approach, and thus are great team players. Their ability to balance work and personal life ensures that they do not go overboard with anything. Lastly, women are more intuitive, have better EQ and hence pre-empt a lot of issues. Women should merge these positive qualities with self-belief to be able to leave a legacy behind.

Here are five pointers that may help women who are looking to lead in the years to come:

  1. Love what you do, there cannot be more fun in anything else.
  2. Women who want to grow as leaders should also take ownership of their professional development.
  3. Embrace opportunity -- women must often take sharp detours and sometimes, the risks of unexpected changes may seem more obvious than the benefits.
  4. Become self-reliant and confident by accepting opportunities.
  5. Expand your horizons and gain the resilience to move ahead even when things do not go the way you want.

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