Historically, there has been much discussion devoted to the question of why women are failing to rise to the top in organizations. Explanations vary: it’s the unconscious bias thing, the exclusion from networks thing, the institutional barriers thing, the lack of executive presence thing, the balance thing, the failure to ask for promotions thing and, most recently, the much publicized confidence thing.
My dad once told me the key to his wellbeing is, “I’m the same person everywhere I go.” This baffled me. I was clocking overtime at the multiple persona factory- working hard to be different people everywhere I went. I believed others needed me to. In truth, this effort was draining my energy, leaving me less present and less available for high-quality connections. I see now that my dad’s authenticity stems from his state of integration.
The holistic leader strives for integration beyond work/life balance. Work is an opportunity for growth. Life is a leadership training ground. Bringing her whole self to work, the holistic leader exemplifies authenticity. She’s well resourced, grounded, and present, a leader in her organization, as well as in her community and family. At ease and focused, she knows herself and her value.
The metaphors we use for powerful presentations describe an experience beyond cognitive. Great speakers engage us on a physical and emotional level. We may literally rise from our seats in a “standing ovation.” Resonant leadership presence lifts people up, and joins them in action.
This weekend, I said “no” to socializing, seeing shows, and working. I said “yes” to walking, reading, and writing. Saying no brought up some FOMO (fear of missing out) and self-judgment (I should be able to do it all). But saying no also cleared the space for my yes. Saying yes brought me discovery of my neighborhood, an inspiring book, and immersion in my creative project. The yeses were worth the nos.
Ever notice how in giving a friend good advice, you end up taking it yourself? The way we speak to others is practice for speaking to ourselves. Imagine if the voice inside your head said the exact words you needed to hear. For many of us, our inner dialogue is an unconscious replaying of internalized criticism and judgment. It is often shaped by the words of well-intentioned, but misguided, caretakers during our formative years. With deliberate care, our self-talk can become an inner sanctum with our wisest self.
When Ella Fitzgerald was asked how she became so successful, she said: “It’s simple; I owe it all to one woman, Marilyn Monroe. She stood up for me. She went to the owner of the Mocambo Club in 1955 and told him that, if he gave me a gig for one week, she’d be there every night at the front table. And she was. The press went wild. I never had to play a small club again.”
Creativity is in demand. A recent IBM study found it the most sought trait in leaders today. Tom Kelley and David Kelley, authors of Creative Confidence, assert that we are all born ‘creative types,’ but four key fears block us from accessing our creative potential. Here is how WE, women encouraging one another, can combat these fears:
Oprah Winfrey on Maya Angelou: “She has taught me some of the most profound lessons of my life: that when we know better, we do better; that to love someone is to liberate, not possess, them; that negative words have the power to seep into the furniture and into our skin; that we should be grateful even for our trials. She calls me her darling girl, and I call her my mother-sister-friend. And as I soak up her wisdom and marvel at her stamina, I bask in the pure, contagious joy she takes in living.”
When Gloria Steinem first joined the feminist movement, her male colleagues at New York Magazine pulled her aside and told her not to get involved with those “crazy women.” Steinem says of this experience: “I thought- they don’t know who I am, and it’s not their fault because I haven’t told them.” She concluded she’d never get to write what she needed to write about the situation of women in America and the change that needed to happen within the confines of the male dominated publishing world.
We have new opportunities today to recognize women’s contributions in the larger world– uncovering the often hidden role we’ve played historically– in politics, in organizations, in art, in literature…
When she first walked into our Executive Leadership Program for Women in 2007, Grace would have told you she was the last person in the world you’d find taking an improvisation class. Today, she relies on skills honed in improvisation as she engages colleagues from around the world, while she is leading major change. Here is her fascinating conversation with Brigid on improvisation, spontaneity, and transformation.
At the Fall 2013 ELP, Susan Clarke told us a story of how a highly accessorized giraffe helped her lead a cultural change in her organization. Here is her fantastic story on the benefits of play at work: