Greetings to all of the beautiful women in leadership around the world.
If your heart’s calling is to lead, to what degree do you feel your womanhood, or feminine power, is aligned with your training and daily work as a leader?
The majority of leadership models that we experience have been designed to focus on productivity and a male-oriented expectations and measurements of successful leadership. Not to mention antiquated thinking about the stereotypical form and presence of a leader as louder, more powerful, bigger, and smarter than ‘the followers’.
A few years ago I was at the onset of my adulthood and professional journey. I was doing what I was trained to do, following the playbooks on advocacy, community engagement, and systems-change. My career accelerated at a rapid velocity - salary, networks, awards, attention, and energy was all centered on how many hours I put in and how much stuff I could get done in the shortest amount of time possible.
I quickly navigated new mandates, digested legislative and bureaucratic language, and learned to speak the language of the upper echelons of leadership. I knew the most up-to-date buzzwords, innovative language and models of change management in my respective industry, and I was like a machine earning degrees, continuing education credits, certifications, and any kind of experience that would make me look like the best of the best.
But I grew weary of the race. I was sick of the meaningless competition. The scariest moment for me came when I didn’t recognize myself in the mirror anymore. So far into the process of being groomed to be a good leader by societal and cultural standards, I had lost myself and my career was running my life. Not only that, but it was ruining me, my relationships, and the joy I once found in living.
My self-development journey began, and I thought that I could continue to expand my influence as a leader effectively trying to balance work and life. Who was I before and after hours? Who was I when I showed up in my beautiful outfits to be a leader? But it didn’t sit well with me.
I couldn’t stomach the idea of hiding my true self, my authentic identity and put on the various masks and personas expected of me in the dynamic contexts of the life of a public leader. I tested the waters first within programming and grant projects. Using a different language, coming from a heart-centered vision, bringing in mindfulness-based approaches to systems-change.
The innovative methods I was taught were not fitting at all with the human-centered approach I was craving to bring into my work. The more gentle, compassionate, and creative I became, the less accepted I was. The shame, betrayal, and abandonment of my authentic self showing up as a leader hit hard and cut deep. But this is what our invisible societal expectations and unwritten cultural rules do - they have been developed and held onto overtime to make sure we conform, stay in the box, and survive.
I got tired of surviving based on old rules that were harming instead of helping me. I didn’t want to live in a gray, status quo life dictated primarily by masculine and fear-based power. I wanted color. I needed a refresh. I craved creativity. Deep down, I knew that my feminine essence was dying and I had to revive it in order to help shift the paradigm of leadership as our world has known it for much too long. I didn’t want to cut men or masculine power out of leadership - I just wanted a balance and I wanted progress.
I found myself in a director’s meeting one day feeling more dissonance than ever. The messaging, the misalignment of mission and culture, the silly dress codes, the endless lip service … I wasn’t as much exhausted as I was furious that so many people for so long have tolerated or accepted this way of leading. On this day, I told my supervisor that I was done. I wanted to go out on my own to figure this leadership thing out, specifically from the lived experience of being a woman.
It has taken the cultivation of forgiveness, understanding, and love in order to reclaim my power and find my path. But along the way, my self-esteem has transformed holistically. My confidence has increased and been sustained. My intuition and creativity flow. My power is greater than ever. Best of all, my compassion and ability to truly hear the needs of others to create wise, healing solutions has been realized.
So if you are a fellow female leader who feels like her soul has been lost, compromised, stifled, or never truly developed and honored, you are not alone. Together we can rewrite the rules and stories telling us we are not allowed to show up authentically - that who we were destined to be is inherently bad or unacceptable.
Continue to go inward and connect with the vision you have as a natural born leader. Honor your truth and have faith in the intuitive insights and creative ideas that surface as solutions to the daily challenges you work to overcome. And most importantly, nourish the inner light that guides your path both in womanhood and leaderhood.
Own your identity. Embrace your power. Lead from your heart. You already have the skills and knowledge to do the rest. Stay true to yourself and remember there is a community of heart-centered, feminine leaders cheering you on in physical form and in spirit. And remember - there's always been a rainbow, hanging over your head :)