It’s not easy being a leader and it’s not easy being a female leader. As much as society has evolved since the days of women earning less than men, as a woman you still have to work a lot harder to prove yourself and others are a lot more critical of you.
I’m not moaning about it. At my age I accept it’s a current fact of life. (That does not mean that I like the situation but I find a better way of dealing with it is to belong to networks that promote and support women as they progress through their careers and by being a part of a mentoring programme.)
I do sometimes think, however, that being a female leader of my age is like leading an expedition through an unexplored jungle. There are very few paths already laid out, you never know what will face you around the next corner and there are wild animals constantly prowling around.
The wild animals may be the press (note how the Chris Huhne/Vicky Pryce story was reported); society; old fashioned men or even other women. The nastiest person I ever had to deal with was a woman who stopped at nothing to achieve what she wanted. Her path to a senior role was littered with the bodies of other women she had stabbed in the back after she had got what she wanted from them. She may have publicly touted herself as a supporter of women but it was clear that she only wanted to be seen in a positive light by the senior men she met and was prepared to put down female colleagues to portray herself in a positive light. She may have been the most unpleasant but she was certainly not the only woman I’ve met like that.
So who is the worst enemy of a female leader? Is it society? Is it old fashioned men who secretly think that women should be wives and mothers? Is it, other women? Well all those are don’t help but if you are a female leader and you want to know who is your worst enemy – look in the mirror.
That’s right – often your worst enemy is yourself.
Here’s a small quiz to see if that is the case
1) Do you do what others expect of you or do you listen to yourself?
2) Do you think small and not big?
3) Do you wait for the right time for things to be perfect?
4) Are you always saying or thinking that you are too busy, that you are not supported?
If you answered “yes” to any of the above, then you have a fight on your hands.
So how can you fight the enemy within?
1) Give waiting for others to praise or validate you – do it yourself. There is nothing wrong with admitting to yourself that you are damn good!
2) Nothing has to be perfect. It just has to be good enough.
3) Micromanagement is not your friend. Give it up.
4) The only person that makes you a victim is you. There is a famous photo taken during the siege of Sarajevo – which was the longest siege of a capital city in the history of modern warfare – which shows a woman walking tall in make up, heels and an elegant dress through the city.
Taken by British Photojournalist, Tom Stoddart, the photo shows Meliha Vareshanovic refusing to cower in the face of the snipers that daily picked off civilian targets. Even in the face of death, she refused to be a victim. Meliha is an example of the thousands of women who refuse to be victims in the face of immense adversity.
If she can refuse to be a victim so can you. Eliminate victim mentalities and behaviour. Find solutions instead of moaning.
5) Don’t be afraid to be seen to shine. Light up the room if need be – by being the best version of yourself in any given situation.
If you have reached a leadership role, it is because you have worked hard for it and you deserve it – so don’t let anyone, not even yourself, take that recognition away.