Women & Leadership - 5 Steps on a Learning Path
In continuation of an earlier blog I wrote about the lack of women leaders sharing lessons learned, advice and other topics I’ve been on a journey of looking for information and inspiration. I’ve collected what I’ve learned and recommend into 5 areas – watching parents, giving a sh**, be a sponge, speaking up and failing.
While not being a parent myself i can see how being a parent is a crash course in leadership. From keeping calm under pressure (hungry tired baby needing a diaper change) to acting the way you want your followers to (children's first swear words often are a jolting reality for this) to establishing boundaries and rules, not to be mean, but to create stability and predictability.
Not to mention, parents figure out how to get kids to eat vegetables - talk about the power of persuasion.
There are a lot of leadership lessons that can be distilled from parents, even things to avoid.
Give a SH** - Be Gracious
Caitlin Moran, author of "How to be a Woman" was recently chastised for replying to a tweet question about Caitlin’s interview asking if she was going to address an issue of lack of racial diversity on a program Caitlin responded with "Nope. I literally couldn’t give a shit about it." Yikes. I believe I understand her perspective, as Caitlin wrote in her book that women shouldn’t have to worry about issues that men aren’t forced to consider, and there are many other tv programs out there with all white casts, so why should Caitlin have to care? However, to just tweet off something that is seemingly dismissive to an issues comes of rude.
When you’re in the spotlight (consider anything that goes online, including emails, to be the spotlight) be mindful of what you say. Even more important if you are considered a leader. There are a lot of adages about how positivity and graciousness can make more of a difference in the world, probably because it’s true. Just to give a few “you can attract more bees with honey than vinegar,” “If you want to change the world start with yourself” and one of my recent favorites by Nelson Mandela
“Any fool can criticize, condemn and complain - and most fools do. But it takes character and self control to be understanding and forgiving.”
Be a sponge, with or without square pants
Literally soak up as much information as you can, while challenging what you are learning. As Sir Frances Bacon told us “Knowledge is Power”. For me, the more I learn the more I realize I don’t know, which might be the best lesson of all, but I digress. Since I’ve been reading this past year or two specifically on leadership, I’ve found that there’s a wealth of knowledge out there, hbr.com to Six Sigma Certification and Jenna Goudreau among others, there are a lot of insights and tools for leaders and female leadership if you’re so inclinced.
Many women and even men are aware of the disproportionately low ratio of women to men in the boardrooms. I don't think there's one singular reason for it, but if women don't speak up when there are roadblocks for ourselves or other women, we're letting the status quo prevail.
There are many stereotypes and slightly off things that are said still in the workplace about women, from honoring women who only take 2 weeks of maternity leave to constant girl-hate (see this teenager's plea for ending this) to snarky comments about having to leave early for childcare.
So when you see it, say something. It doesn’t have to be “that was sexist”. You can simply address how it was impolite, incorrect, too personal to discuss at work or any other response that lets the speaker know they crossed the line and shouldn’t be accepted. It’s best if you can say something with humor such as “Gee Bob, since when did you next thing you know you’ll replace the water cooler as the center of gossip.” Any way you do it, it’s time we say something about all these things that chip away at equal treatment.
It’s quite simple, some things in life we try to do and we fail. Failure is a part of life and a part of trying new things, new ideas and new experiences.
Failure rate of new businesses is as high as 48% and new products, light bulbs and all sorts of things take several renditions before they work. If you weren’t born leading, and even if you were, you are probably going to have failures along the way. Don’t take it personal or be discouraged, just learn from it and try not to repeat it again and again – you don’t want to wind up crazy in the process.
So go out and get your fail on.
Random Insight & Conclusion - The 10,000 hour rule.
Malcom Gladwell really opened my eyes to this concept. Basically, mastery of something comes after 10,000 of practice. This principle can describe how many individuals achieved great success, from Bill Gates to the Beatles - they all practiced for at least 10,000 hours.
I think getting a variety of experiences is also vital, so it might not be worth investing all your time tomorrow into blogging if that's your thing, but definitely worth putting practice, a lot of practice, into something your passionate about.
For me, I’m hoping to slowly accumulate 10,000 hours in learning and sharing information on leadership (with women in mind) – this could take a while as I split this with other interests, work and sleep, but my dedication is there. If you want to follow me on the journey, catch me on Twitter or Blog. And please, if you have anything to share on the topic, let me know!