Assertive Communication

Women in Leadership – The Value of Assertive Communication

Assertive communication has emerged as a pivotal factor shaping the effectiveness of women in leadership roles. This article aims to delve deep into the essence of assertive communication and explore its impact on women leaders.

The Role of Women in Leadership

Over the years, women have proven their mettle in leadership positions, breaking barriers and challenging traditional norms. Today’s women leaders aren’t just powerful—they’re transformative, bringing a unique blend of empathy, resilience, and collaboration to the table.

Understanding Assertive Communication

Assertive communication is a powerful communication style that emphasises clarity, honesty, and respect. It is about expressing oneself effectively, standing up for one’s rights while respecting others’, and maintaining a balanced approach to communication.

The Impact of Assertive Communication in Leadership

The Advantages of Assertive Communication

When applied to leadership, assertive communication can bolster decision-making, promote transparency, and foster a healthier work culture. Moreover, it’s an antidote to workplace conflicts, helping leaders manage differences and disagreements constructively.

Assertive Communication vs Aggressive Communication

While both assertive and aggressive communication styles involve advocating for oneself, the difference lies in the approach. Assertive communication respects the rights of all parties, while aggressive communication disregards others’ feelings and rights.

Examples of Successful Women Leaders using Assertive Communication

From Indra Nooyi to Jacinda Ardern, many women leaders have harnessed the power of assertive communication to drive change and foster growth.

Indra Nooyi

Clear communication: Nooyi is known for her ability to communicate her vision, strategies, and expectations with clarity and conviction. She articulates her ideas in a direct and confident manner, ensuring that her messages are understood by others.

  1. Decisiveness: As the former CEO of PepsiCo, Nooyi demonstrated her assertiveness through decisive decision-making. She was not afraid to make tough choices and take calculated risks, which contributed to the company’s growth and success under her leadership.
  2. Advocacy for diversity and inclusion: Nooyi has been a strong advocate for diversity and inclusion, both within PepsiCo and in the broader business community. She actively promoted diversity in leadership positions and championed initiatives that supported the advancement of women and underrepresented groups.
  3. Resilience and determination: Nooyi’s assertiveness is evident in her resilience and determination to overcome challenges. She navigated the complexities of the business world, successfully steering PepsiCo through changing market conditions and adapting to consumer demands.
  4. Engaging and empowering leadership style: Nooyi fostered a collaborative and inclusive work environment, encouraging open dialogue and valuing diverse perspectives. She empowered her team members, providing them with opportunities for growth and development, which contributed to a motivated and high-performing workforce.
  5. Influential external engagement: Nooyi leveraged her assertive leadership to engage with external stakeholders, including investors, policymakers, and the public. She effectively represented PepsiCo’s interests and advocated for sustainable business practices and social responsibility.
  6. Inspiring and leading by example: Nooyi’s assertiveness is reflected in her ability to inspire and motivate others. Through her own actions, she set a positive example for leadership, demonstrating resilience, integrity, and a commitment to driving meaningful change.

It is important to note that assertive leadership does not mean being aggressive or dominating. Nooyi’s assertiveness is characterised by her ability to assert her ideas, values, and decisions confidently while respecting and considering the perspectives of others. Her leadership style exemplifies the power of assertiveness in driving success and fostering a positive work culture.

Jacinda Ardern
  1. Crisis management: Ardern has demonstrated assertiveness in managing major crises, such as the Christchurch mosque shootings in 2019 and the COVID-19 pandemic. She acted decisively, swiftly implementing measures to address the situations, providing clear communication, and showing empathy towards affected communities.
  2. Strong communication skills: Ardern effectively communicates her government’s policies, decisions, and vision to the public. She is known for her empathetic and compassionate communication style, connecting with people on a personal level while maintaining clarity and conviction in her messages.
  3. Progressive policy initiatives: Ardern has pursued progressive policy initiatives during her tenure as New Zealand’s Prime Minister. She has advocated for social issues like gender equality, climate change, and child poverty reduction. Her assertiveness in championing these causes has garnered international attention and support.
  4. Resilience and determination: Ardern has displayed resilience and determination in the face of challenges. She has consistently stood by her convictions, even when facing opposition, and has worked towards achieving her goals with perseverance and determination.
  5. Collaborative leadership: While being assertive, Ardern also values collaboration and inclusivity in decision-making. She actively seeks input from various stakeholders, engages in dialogue, and considers diverse perspectives. This approach allows her to build consensus and create a sense of shared ownership in her leadership.
  6. International diplomacy: Ardern’s assertive leadership extends to her international engagements. She has represented New Zealand on the global stage, advocating for human rights, peace, and sustainability. Her firm yet diplomatic approach in addressing global issues has earned her respect and recognition worldwide.
  7. Empowering and inclusive leadership style: Ardern fosters an inclusive and empowering work environment. She encourages participation, supports diversity, and empowers individuals to take on leadership roles. Her assertive leadership style inspires others to contribute their ideas and talents to the betterment of New Zealand.

Ardern’s assertiveness is characterised by her ability to take decisive action, communicate effectively, stand up for her values, and work collaboratively to bring about positive change. Her leadership style has resonated with many, positioning her as a prominent and influential leader on the global stage.

Tips for Enhancing Assertive Communication Skills

Developing Assertive Communication Skills

Enhancing assertive communication skills isn’t an overnight process—it demands practice, self-awareness, and openness to feedback. By embracing an assertive mindset, one can navigate even the most challenging conversations with ease.

Common Barriers to Assertive Communication and Overcoming Them

Barriers such as self-doubt, fear of conflict, or cultural norms can hamper the development of assertive communication skills. Overcoming these barriers involves fostering self-confidence, understanding one’s worth, and breaking free from limiting beliefs.

The Future of Women Leadership and Assertive Communication

As more women ascend to leadership positions, the value of assertive communication will continue to escalate. In this evolving landscape, mastering assertive communication will be vital for women aiming to leave their mark.

The Role of Technology in Facilitating Assertive Communication

Technology can play a significant role in enhancing assertive communication, from providing online webinars and courses to tools that can help foster assertiveness in communication.


Assertive communication is a transformative tool that can enhance the effectiveness of women in leadership roles. By understanding, harnessing, and honing this skill, women leaders can unlock new levels of success and impact.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the difference between assertive and aggressive communication?

The difference between assertive and aggressive communication lies in the way individuals express their thoughts, needs, and opinions.

Assertive communication involves expressing oneself in a clear, direct, and respectful manner while considering the rights and feelings of others. It involves stating opinions, making requests, and setting boundaries without infringing upon the rights of others. Assertive communicators express their thoughts and feelings openly and honestly, without resorting to manipulation or disrespect.

On the other hand, aggressive communication involves expressing oneself in a forceful, hostile, or confrontational manner that disregards the rights and feelings of others. Aggressive communicators often use intimidation, threats, or insults to dominate a conversation and assert their opinions or needs. Aggression tends to create a hostile environment and can lead to strained relationships and conflicts.

Here are some key differences between assertive and aggressive communication:

  1. Tone: Assertive communication maintains a calm and respectful tone, while aggressive communication is characterised by anger, hostility, or irritability.
  2. Listening and empathy: Assertive communicators actively listen to others’ perspectives and show empathy, while aggressive communicators tend to disregard others’ viewpoints and focus solely on their own needs.
  3. Respect for boundaries: Assertive communication respects personal boundaries and seeks mutually beneficial solutions, whereas aggressive communication often disregards boundaries and attempts to dominate or control the situation.
  4. Non-verbal cues: Assertive communicators use open body language, maintain eye contact, and speak clearly, while aggressive communicators may display tense body language, use aggressive gestures, or invade personal space.
  5. Conflict resolution: Assertive communication aims for a win-win outcome, fostering constructive dialogue and seeking compromise. Aggressive communication, however, often leads to a win-lose scenario, where one party dominates and the other feels diminished.

Overall, assertive communication promotes healthy and effective interactions, while aggressive communication tends to create tension, animosity, and hinder effective communication and problem-solving.

How can one develop assertive communication skills?

Developing assertive communication skills can be beneficial in various aspects of life, including personal relationships, work environments, and social interactions. Here are some strategies to help you develop assertive communication skills:

  1. Self-awareness: Start by understanding your own thoughts, needs, and emotions. Reflect on your communication style and identify areas where you tend to be passive or aggressive. Recognise your rights and value as an individual.
  2. Active listening: Practice active listening skills by paying attention to others’ perspectives, emotions, and concerns. Show genuine interest and provide feedback to demonstrate that you value their opinions.
  3. Use “I” statements: Instead of making accusatory or generalising statements, express your thoughts, feelings, and needs using “I” statements. For example, say “I feel” or “I need,” which takes ownership of your emotions without blaming others.
  4. Practice assertive body language: Maintain good posture, make eye contact, and use appropriate facial expressions and gestures. These non-verbal cues can convey confidence and assertiveness.
  5. Set clear boundaries: Clearly define your personal boundaries and communicate them assertively to others. Let them know what is acceptable and what is not, without being overly aggressive or passive. Respect others’ boundaries as well.
  6. Express your opinions and needs: Speak up and share your thoughts, ideas, and needs in a respectful and confident manner. Use assertive language to express your viewpoints without belittling or disrespecting others.
  7. Practice assertive responses: Role-play or rehearse assertive responses to challenging situations or conversations. This can help you become more comfortable and confident in expressing yourself assertively.
  8. Conflict resolution: Learn and practice effective conflict resolution skills. Focus on finding mutually beneficial solutions rather than getting caught up in winning or losing. Seek compromises and be open to negotiation.
  9. Practice self-confidence: Build your self-confidence through self-care, positive self-talk, and celebrating your achievements. The more confident you feel, the easier it becomes to communicate assertively.
  10. Seek feedback: Ask for feedback from trusted friends, colleagues, or mentors on your communication style. They can provide insights and suggestions for improvement.

Remember that developing assertive communication skills takes time and practice. Be patient with yourself and continue to learn and grow.

How does assertive communication impact women in leadership roles?

Assertive communication plays a crucial role in empowering women in leadership positions. Here are some ways assertive communication can positively impact women in leadership roles:

  1. Building credibility: Assertive communication helps women leaders establish credibility and gain respect from their peers, subordinates, and superiors. By expressing their ideas and opinions confidently and clearly, women leaders can enhance their professional reputation and be taken seriously in their roles.
  2. Influence and decision-making: Assertive communication enables women leaders to effectively influence decisions and shape outcomes. They can express their viewpoints, provide valuable insights, and advocate for their ideas, contributing to more inclusive and diverse decision-making processes.
  3. Setting expectations and boundaries: Assertive communication allows women leaders to set clear expectations for their team members, colleagues, and stakeholders. They can define boundaries, delegate tasks, and establish standards of behaviour, creating a positive and productive work environment.
  4. Negotiation and conflict resolution: Women leaders who employ assertive communication skills are better equipped to negotiate for resources, opportunities, and fair treatment. They can address conflicts directly and constructively, seeking win-win solutions and fostering collaboration within their teams.
  5. Overcoming gender stereotypes: Assertive communication helps women leaders challenge and overcome gender stereotypes and biases that may exist in the workplace. By confidently asserting their ideas and abilities, women leaders can break down barriers and inspire other women to pursue leadership positions.
  6. Inspiring and empowering others: Assertive communication allows women leaders to inspire and empower their team members. By expressing confidence, providing constructive feedback, and encouraging open dialogue, they create an environment that values diverse perspectives and encourages everyone to contribute their best.
  7. Career advancement: Effective assertive communication can positively impact women leaders’ career progression. It helps them showcase their skills, achievements, and ambitions, positioning themselves for opportunities for growth, promotions, and leadership advancement.

It is important to note that women may face unique challenges in adopting assertive communication styles due to societal expectations and gender biases. However, by embracing assertiveness and cultivating supportive networks, women can navigate these challenges and thrive in their leadership roles.

By leveraging assertive communication, women leaders can bring about positive change, challenge the status quo, and contribute to more inclusive and diverse workplaces. Their assertive communication skills can inspire and empower others, paving the way for greater gender equality in leadership positions.

How can Women in Leadership benefit from Assertive leadership coaching?

Women in leadership can benefit from assertive leadership coaching in several ways:

  1. Developing confidence: Assertive leadership coaching can help women leaders develop confidence in expressing their ideas, opinions, and needs. It provides tools and techniques to overcome self-doubt and build self-assurance, enabling them to assert themselves effectively in various professional situations.
  2. Enhancing communication skills: Coaching can focus on improving communication skills, including assertive verbal and non-verbal communication. Women leaders can learn to convey their messages clearly, assertively express their viewpoints, and actively listen to others, fostering effective communication and building stronger relationships.
  3. Assertive negotiation: Assertive leadership coaching equips women leaders with negotiation skills, helping them navigate complex situations such as salary discussions, contract negotiations, or challenging business deals. They learn techniques to assert their interests while maintaining relationships and achieving mutually beneficial outcomes.
  4. Setting boundaries and saying no: Women leaders often face the challenge of balancing numerous responsibilities and expectations. Coaching can assist in setting clear boundaries, prioritising tasks, and confidently saying no when necessary. This helps prevent burnout, ensures personal well-being, and fosters a healthy work-life balance.
  5. Overcoming gender biases and stereotypes: Assertive leadership coaching can address gender biases and stereotypes that women may encounter in leadership positions. It provides strategies to navigate these challenges and assertively address biased perceptions or unfair treatment, empowering women to challenge and overcome barriers.
  6. Conflict resolution: Coaching can support women leaders in developing assertive conflict resolution skills. They can learn to manage and resolve conflicts in a constructive manner, focusing on finding win-win solutions, fostering collaboration, and maintaining positive working relationships.
  7. Leadership presence and influence: Assertive leadership coaching can help women leaders develop a strong leadership presence. They can refine their executive presence, improve their influencing skills, and gain the confidence and tools to assertively lead their teams and drive organisational success.
  8. Self-advocacy and career progression: Coaching can assist women leaders in developing self-advocacy skills, such as effectively promoting their achievements, seeking challenging opportunities, and advancing their careers. They can learn to assertively navigate promotion processes, negotiate for advancement, and create pathways for their professional growth.

Assertive leadership coaching provides tailored support, guidance, and skill development specifically addressing the unique challenges women face in leadership roles. It empowers women to embrace their strengths, overcome obstacles, and cultivate assertive leadership styles that lead to greater success, influence, and fulfilment in their professional journeys.

The Value of Partnering with a Leadership Coach

Working with a leadership coach can offer personalised assistance, encouragement, and constructive criticism, aiding you in refining your assertiveness skills and integrating them more efficiently into your leadership style. Through custom-made exercises, introspection, and valuable feedback, leadership coaches can modify their strategies to your particular requirements, ensuring you experience the full advantages of assertive leadership in your professional growth journey.

By collaborating with a leadership coach who is an expert in self-awareness and the assertive leadership mindset, you’ll gain access to a treasure trove of wisdom and experience, empowering you to deepen your comprehension of these principles and implement them more effectively in your career. This collaboration can expedite your personal and professional development, resulting in a more rewarding and influential career.

Never undervalue the potential of professional guidance when it comes to mastering self-awareness and mindfulness. By investing in a leadership coach, you’re investing in your own growth and your ability to make a substantial positive impact on those you guide.

How Can Sarah Jones Coaching Help? 

Developing your mindset and skillset requires more than just theoretical knowledge. It requires practice, feedback, and guidance from experienced professionals who can help cultivate the mindset and skillset needed to make mindfulness a central tenet of your leadership style. This is where Sarah Jones Coaching comes in.

As the founder of Sarah Jones Coaching, I am an experienced, professional leadership coach who specialises in helping individuals and organisations develop leadership skills. My coaching programmes are designed to enhance assertiveness, self-awareness, emotional intelligence, empathy, adaptability, systemic thinking, and servant leadership, while also promoting stakeholder engagement, innovation, sustainability, and positive social and environmental impact.

With my guidance, leaders can learn how to make better decisions, build more effective teams, and create a culture of purpose, values, and impact.

The first part of this process is to discuss your unique set of circumstances to identify areas in which you excel and areas we can improve, though a confidential and free consultation process. At the end of this consultation process I will create a coaching programme, tailored to your specific needs.

Depending on your unique set of circumstances, your tailored coaching programme could be very short and be accomplished in a few coaching sessions. In other cases, more development may be required over a longer period.  

The first step in this process is getting in touch with me.

Get In Touch

The first step in your development journey is getting a professional assessment on the what practical steps you can take to develop and improve your skillset, mindset and prospects. 

Executive development coaching

Need Some Free Advice?

If you’re lacking assertiveness, then you should book a date in your calendar for a free Sarah Jones Coaching webinar, entitled “Assertive Communications for Leadership”.

On Tuesday 1st August 2023 from 12:00 to 12:40pm you are invited to join us and benefit from some professional insights, guidance, tips, and advice on how to overcome a lack of assertiveness and avoid its pitfalls.

The webinar agenda will be as follows:

  • Understand what assertiveness is and how it differs from aggression and passivity
  • Identify the benefits of assertiveness for leaders and teams
  • Learn how to identify signs of a lack of assertiveness in yourself and others
  • Understanding the negative consequences of not being assertive
  • Learning key assertive communication skills
  • Master techniques to enhance assertiveness
  • Questions and Answers

Assertive Communications for Leadership

Webinar - 1st August 2023 at 12pm

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