Contributed by Dana Theus, Founder of InPower Coaching
There’s no snappy research study to prove that “just being yourself” is every woman’s ticket to upper management, but I believe it’s true. I’m going to make a good argument for it in this article, and why – when your head hits the glass ceiling and “playing by the rules” isn’t working – tapping into your unique personal power is an awesome hammer.
There’s a lot of research coming out that paints a dismal picture of women’s chances of getting into top leadership posts. Here’s a small sampling:
- Leader stereotypes are masculine – so men are perceived as better leaders.
- Women are penetrating leadership in big companies at a glacially slow pace.
- The language of female leadership is less empowered than men’s, and we tend to self-censor more than men do.
This data, plus the ever present equal pay dilemma make it hard to find the silver lining in being a woman aspiring to leadership positions these days.
However, there is tons of evidence that women in leadership actually help companies perform better than those with fewer women up top.
- Four major studies have found that when organizations have more women in top leadership, they outperform those that don’t.
- Women’s presence in any group raises the group’s intelligence.
- Women in developing economies boost the whole country’s performance.
It’s Up To Us
Do you know what this means? This means we have it in us. We ARE the right stuff. We’re full of what our companies and economies need to succeed and we balance the uber-testosterone leadership style that is currently responsible for putting our companies and economy at such risk.
You see? The only thing the research shows us is that as a culture we believe the stereotypes and overlooks actual performance in favor of its prejudices. Well of course it does. That’s what stereotypes do for us – they tell us what to believe, until we have reason to believe otherwise. But the facts are on our side.
And when WE stop believing the stereotypes and being our authentic selves so we can tap into our power as women – the power the research demonstrates is there – I believe we’ll get ahead in leadership roles AND create a whole new way to lead. This new style of leadership will allow us to “have it all” in a whole new way – a way that works. This new leadership style is ours to define and I don’t think it looks like anything we’ve seen in the “normal” leadership literature yet, but we have the ingredients within us. Here are some of the reasons I believe this.
- When women deploy assertive and sensitive styles in appropriate situations, they get ahead faster than their male peers.
- When we speak our truth, 72% of us claim to have achieved career advancement.
- Women are more ethical and have all the leadership qualities of success.
- When we release the desire to be “supermom” we’re less depressed and more capable.
- There are no end of women at the top telling us to be true to ourselves and sit at the table, because this strategy worked for them.
How Can We Be “More” Authentic?
I know this argument can be both terribly inspiring and a tad frightening. It’s easy to read the stats, but what do we DO? How do we “be authentic?” Isn’t that an oxymoron? Aren’t we already authentic?
Every human has to answer that question for themselves, of course, but judging from my own experience and that of my clients, I’d say we can all be more authentic in ways that immediately boost our leadership power – in fact and in appearance. The key is to accept that who you are has inherent value, but that no one else can appreciate the full power of YOU until you let her out in the sun. And there are many ways to simply tap into your own power that’s already inside you. You don’t have to go anywhere to find it, all you have to do is confront a little fear, but there are techniques for doing that and it’s not nearly as hard as you think. Here are a few suggestions to get started.
- Learn to use words and language powerfully, and when you can’t – choose silence.
- Don’t worry about threatening others with being in your own power, but learn to let them be powerful themselves without threatening you.
- Work with shows up and don’t waste energy in stress and worry (there is power in accepting what is for what it is).
- Learn to manage your team’s energy towards your intention.
- Stop self-censoring and learn to speak your truth, which is tied to your beliefs (yes! even the limiting ones!).
- Find your purpose and let it guide you to your place of power.
Ironically, women have been the vanguard of the self-help movement when it comes to yoga, meditation, positive thinking and an entire industry that now tells us that being ourselves is the key to happiness. And yet when we go to the office, we forget all that and let the business stereotypes that devalue that very self-helped self rule the day.
Ladies, the evidence says it’s time to stop following the rules and start shaping them. You don’t have to be anything but who you are. You have the power within you. Learn how to use it.