It’s impossible to have a discussion about women in leadership without first addressing what it means to be a woman.
Just as there are 50 million books on leadership and no real clean consensus on a definition, each of us has our own idea about what it means to be a woman, and a woman leader.
Those ideas are important as they enable us to define our own particular style or brand. But they are also a straight jacket that binds us to a particular set of ideals and keep us stuck in a groove. Those ideas are often based on past experiences and corresponding decisions about who we must be to succeed.
Even our notion of success is a combination of inherited ideals, observations and decisions. We witnessed others behaving in certain ways and said to ourselves “I’ll do this, but I won’t do that.”
For every bad manager we had, we learned what not to do.
For every working mother we noticed, we decided who and how to be.
We did most of this unconsciously and so are bound by those rules. Some of those rules serve us well while others might just be worth re-evaluating.
You can start by asking a few questions.
Start to notice the word should comes up in some of your answers and then challenge yourself to let go of what you should do and be and start to design your own idea of a successful woman leader. Find your passion, your heart and soul. Then go from there.
What is your idea of what a woman is meant to be? Do you have a woman role model in your life that you aspire to be like? What are her traits and characteristics?