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The Burden of Female Leadership

On the heels of the most recent Grit+Grace post and words of wisdom from our latest Inspiring Interview with Sarah Liu, I want to reflect on women’s leadership, what that really means, and provide you with a few considerations for your own style.

When it comes to being a great leader, there are a lot of attributes and qualities that we look for. Authenticity, confidence, charisma, ownership, collaboration, decisiveness, and the list goes on and on.

Those qualities apply to both men and women. So why do we need to even talk about female leadership?

No matter how you look at it, women have additional responsibility and pressure when it comes to developing their leadership presence. All too often, when a woman is confident, she is perceived as being too assertive. If a woman has charisma, she is flirtatious. If a woman is decisive, she is too demanding.

Certainly, this is not the case in every instance, but I would be willing to place a bet that most woman can identify with this “too much” challenge. On the opposite of that, if a woman shows emotion, she is too weak. If she contemplates a decision or weights all points of view, she is indecisive. You get the gist.

Women carry an additional burden when it comes to being a great leader – sometimes self-imposed or sadly imposed from other women – but a burden nonetheless. This burden, however, can be relieved by developing a strong and balanced leadership framework to tap into at all times.

This leadership framework is built on the belief that leadership = self-awareness + confidence (more on that here). As women, we need to constantly monitor ourselves (and the room), checking ourselves from time to time on the sentiment or intent of what we are saying and doing. Why are we showing up the way that we are? As leaders, it is crucial that we find and own our voices, maintaining authenticity at all times, but to be a great leader we must consider along the way why we are saying what we are saying and how we are saying it. If our intentions (and likely then tone) are a little off, this is a great opportunity to refine how we move forward all while continuing to maintain our authenticity.

This creates a cycle of continual self-awareness and refinement leading to greater confidence and strength as a leader. This also aligns your efforts and intentions to gaining respect and strength from your team and the people around you.

At the end of the day, the burden that women carry will only go away when we let it. It’s time to stop worrying about what everyone may think and worry about who we are, how we are showing up and why. We can only control our reaction to situations so rather than feel weighed down or worried about these opposing perceptions, let’s own who we are – with a constant eye on intent – and believe in our own leadership style. The more confident you are and the more you believe in yourself – the more others will believe in you too.

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