How female leaders can lead with head, hands and heart

Female business leader giving a presentation to colleagues in an office, leadership roles


Sue Musson, a seasoned female leaders, shares her insights on leadership in the tech industry. Drawing from her rich career journey, she emphasises the importance of balancing head, hands, and heart skills for effective leadership.

Sue Musson achieved her first board-level leadership role at the age of twenty-seven.

female leader

Since then, she has learned a thing or two about leadership which she is keen to share with others.

She has led numerous organisations, including her own successful businesses under the Firecracker brand. Her experience of leadership spans the full gamut of highs and lows, which she recounts with honesty, insight and humour.

Sue has had the honour of serving for fifteen years as a non-executive director and chair of five of the UK’s most significant healthcare organisations. She regularly chairs panels to appoint UK judges.

Female tech leaders can throw off limitations on their leadership impact and become queenmakers to boot.

Tapping into all their head, hands and heart skills in balance is the secret.

The statistics showing that women in tech rarely attain leadership roles at the same pace as their male counterparts are depressingly familiar. There are a range of factors influencing career progression, and for each individual, it can be a daunting hill to climb.  Throw in a few negative stereotypes or self-limiting beliefs, and a tough environment just became even harder to navigate.

Female tech leaders can help themselves to thrive by evaluating their current leadership skill set and by taking action to maintain areas of strength and improve areas of weakness. Using the Firecracker Leadership Framework, available as a free PDF download, is the ideal place to start. The Framework lists the 15 skills every great leader needs under three headings: head, hands and heart. Rating your proficiency against each skill will help you identify areas to prioritise. Check your total scores to determine if your skills are balanced or overly weighted in one area.

 When one area is too dominant, the following traps can emerge:

  • The head trap – being too focused on performance to the exclusion of all else.  These leaders focus only on metrics and driving for results, an approach others find alienating in the long run.
  • The hands trap – prioritising technical and doing skills over leading. These leaders take a “Give it here” approach given their expertise. But, their unwillingness to delegate or support others to grow creates a lack of trust and undermines others’ self-confidence.
  • The heart trap – being too empathetic at the expense of setting a clear direction. These leaders get mired in emotional connection to the point that they neglect to set clear expectations for outcomes. Their teams are prone to feeling frustrated and aimless.
female leader

By recalibrating your approach to ensure balance across the three areas, you will become a more effective leader capable of flexibly applying a broader range of skills.  Having head, hands and heart skills in abundance and in balance is crucial to optimising your leadership credibility and impact.

Female tech leaders frequently cite working in organisational cultures where they feel less welcome and valued than male peers. Working in these environments can be a barrier to career progression and can intensify the effects of imposter syndrome where sufferers feel unworthy, inadequate and crippled by self-doubt, unachievable expectations and negative self-talk.

Positive action to improve leadership skills and confidence is the best antidote to imposter syndrome. Improving your own skill set and seeking advice from a supportive mentor can make all the difference.

You can then return the favour by becoming a role model who sets a positive example for other female leaders, supporting their progression. Replace the label “imposter syndrome sufferer” with “queenmaker” and embrace the opportunity to help more women fulfil their leadership potential.


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