Leading people and learning how to better lead people is a passion for me.
I get the most enjoyment out of mentoring girls and watching them blossom as they develop new skills. I want our daughters to be leaders. I want our sisters and granddaughters to be leaders. I want you to lead. That’s one of the reasons we started The Lovely Project.
Leadership can take many forms. It could look like:
- Readying yourself for a promotion at work.
- Being the one who speaks out for the defenseless.
- Doing more work than expected at school for a grade.
- Learning to control yourself and taking responsibility for your actions.
- Taking the lead on a project.
- Enrolling in classes that update your education.
- Finding a mentor.
Are you a young mom learning all she can about how to care for another human being?
An entrepreneur struggling to get her product ‘out there,’ standing on the lowest rung of the corporate world, staring up?
No matter who you are or where you’re starting from, if you want to have influence, you have some obstacles to overcome first. Let’s look at three of them:
OBSTACLE #1: Learning to express yourself powerfully with words.
The way you speak conveys a message about you and your capabilities. The words you use are the best tool you have to define yourself – to let other people know what you are about. For you to take the leadership ‘seed’ you possess to the next level, your ability to speak persuasively, convincingly and clearly needs to grow.
Obstacle to face: Forming new verbal habits.
OBSTACLE #2: Getting comfortable tooting your own horn.
Your work will speak for itself to a degree, but you also need to speak up with ideas you want to try, solutions you want to propose or connections you want to make. People need to know what you are about. People need to know what your vision is and how you plan to make a difference in the world you see. Part of the way girls show they aren’t comfortable speaking up for themselves is the way they physically look when they are speaking. Here are some habits to get rid of when you are talking:
– Hunch. Don’t avoid eye contact.
– Fiddle with your bra strap or keep pulling on your Spanx.
– Speak in “little girl” voice.
– Put yourself down in the conversation.
DO: Smile, and look like you are enjoying yourself.
Obstacle to face: Speaking up! (when you have something to say)
OBSTACLE #3: Being all sugar and no spice.
There is an African saying that translates, “The daughter of a lion, is also a lion.”
Courage is a virtue that’s empowering. People follow bravery. As women, we place a high value on relationships and are actually wired for them. We go to great lengths to have and keep relationships with others because connection is valued. But too much “sugar and spice and everything nice” has produced a climate that makes leadership for girls an uphill climb. In school, assertiveness and thinking independently are valued in boys, while girls are praised for neat work and team effort. Culturally, girls are shaped to be interdependent and boys are shaped to be independent and autonomous. We need to be connected in relationships, but we can also assert ourselves and speak frankly within those relationships.
When independence and assertiveness aren’t real options that are encouraged in girls – when girls are taught to be unrelentingly helpful, noncompetitive and compliant, no matter what the situation is – we have a recipe for anxiety, shame and jealousy. And people wonder why girls are catty? They take out their anxiety and fear (about not measuring up to… absolutely everything) on each other. They fight, exclude, tease, reject and torment other girls over the things that culture says are important… that, in reality, shouldn’t matter. To grow in leadership, girls have to begin a process of finding healthy ways to assert their thoughts and opinions and strengthen their ability to take confrontation in stride.
Obstacle to face: Learning that conflict has a purpose and can be another chance to negotiate. Unrelenting sweetness is not your friend.
If you’d like to read more on this subject, a great book on leadership for women is “Dressed for Success” by Dondi Scumanci.
Here’s to all of the emerging leaders in this city!