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Where do Women Lead?

Well everywhere…

Before we begin, lets make sure that we are on the same page about what leadership is. There are many leadership theories, models and frameworks. Most of them share the view that good leadership is underpinned by good character and positive relationships and is, at its core, about influencing both people and outcomes. A person’s purpose, beliefs, values, behaviour and the way they interact with and value others therefore, define how they are perceived as a leader. Consider these contemporary examples: Mother Theresa, Princess Diana, Oprah Winfrey, Ellen, Michelle Obama and Sheryl Sandberg.

So if leadership is about character, about who we are and how we go about influencing in the world, why don’t more women confidently step out and acknowledge themselves as the leaders that they are? Why aren’t more women acknowledged for their leadership? There are after all, a myriad of women in the world who answer to this definition of leadership. I think the answer is multifaceted and complex and an important beginning, is for us to develop an understanding of where women are in the current leadership paradigm.

Women and Leadership: Where are we?

Most of the current published experts on leadership are men, with the exception of a few notable women (think Sheryl Sandberg, Arianna Huffington, Brene Brown, Oprah). Add to this, that most of the contemporary writings about leadership describe it within the context of a formal and defined management role in the work context and we begin to see a narrow paradigm emerging. This is pertinent because women tend to influence across the community as well as at work, often when they are not in a designated leadership role.

Women in fact, are quietly leading everywhere:

  1. At work in formal leadership roles and also when our role is not a designated leadership role. We often lead in things like improvement initiatives and influence the workplace or team culture
  2. At home with family creating a vision of how we want it to be for our children and creating family culture,
  3. In community: in schools, sporting clubs, and through voluntary and other unpaid work
  4. As carer’s of children, of other family members and often friends and neighbors too

Due to the narrow paradigm within which contemporary writing on leadership sits, this breadth of where and how women lead, outside of the work context is often unrecognized both by women themselves, by their employers and by those they influence.

In my work with women as a leadership coach, I often find that a low level of confidence around leadership identity and capability can affect a women’s capacity to lead themselves across all aspects of their lives. It can impact their self-perception and their vision of what’s possible in life and work. As a result, rather than set great leadership goals and achieve enriching outcomes across their lives, women can let life just happen. The good news is, I have noticed that when women begin to understand the context of women in leadership at work, at home and in community they are better able to connect with and acknowledge their inner leader and take charge of their future in a positive way.

So if you are a woman, I invite you now, to spend a few moments, using the definition of leadership here and the examples of where women lead, to identify the areas in which you currently are a leader. If you are a man, pass this to a woman friend or family member. When you are done, share, acknowledge and celebrate your leadership and the leadership of other women with other women. It’s time to change the conversation.

Let me know if you need any help with that

+61 421 775 924


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