The reason many brilliant women struggle to fully inhabit their leadership has little to do with where they work. Or men! Even juggling family and career isn’t the main culprit. So what is?
Most often, what holds women back is a question they run over and over in their heads like a mantra: “Who am I to be leading? In other words, their inner critic demon voice shouts louder than all their achievements, promotions, smarts and – even rational thought! The suffering comes from self-sabotage of the not so subtle variety – but it goes undercover because we know enough to know not to share it with colleagues and bosses. And though it has deep roots and originally arose as protection, long ago, it stopped serving us.
I know this demon voice well, having wrestled with it each time a new incarnation (as a teacher, principal, trainer, consultant, executive coach) occurred. It was painful and debilitating – sapping my creative juices, taking up residence in my head and undermining my confidence… until I learned how to integrate it – with the other voices, the happier one, the more successful, ones pointing to historical evidence of competence, even some hard earned kudos and wisdom.
Throughout my executive coaching career, I’ve seen smart, creative, collaborative compassionate women sabotage themselves too many times for it to be coincidence. There are multiple ways it rears up – some minor ( speech habits) and some more major (how they hold their bodies) AND almost always partnered with this dark, sticky, insidious self-doubt.
As Dr. Rick Hanson, author of Buddha’s Brain, and his latest Hardwiring Happiness, recently pointed out, the brain has a natural override to focus on the negative. (It’s a survival learning mechanism from our days on the savannah when learning to avoid the saber tooth tiger and aggressive alpha males was essential to see tomorrow) and it’s fascinating – except when it keeps you from fully inhabiting your power.
The good news is that women, once they admit to and “own” their sabotaging thoughts and behaviors, can eliminate their potency. There is a way out of the ongoing labyrinth of undermining one’s own confidence and brilliance.
And I love showing women how it’s done – supporting the shifts to make it a permanent transformation rather than just a useful recognition.
When the question changes from “Who am I to be doing this” to “Who am I not to”, coupled with certain words, body language and a healthy stance, amazing things happen.
Naturally there are specific practices, exercises and a commitment involved. It’s about new behavior, not just new thinking, right? And do you know of any meaningful transformation that occurs without being embodied? The rewards, however, are mighty.
Without sacrificing their compassion, collaborative spirit or integrity, women step up to making an impact on their teams, organizations, the world – sharing their much needed ideas, asking their provocative and necessary questions, birthing their deeply longed for contributions.
Women in leadership, please make the shift. The world awaits you!
If you’re a brilliant woman struggling to fully inhabit your leadership, check this out.