Assertive leadership and ambition are applauded in men, but women are often called bossy or aggressive when demonstrating those same qualities. Regardless of your politics, it is heartening to see a female presidential candidate shattering one of the toughest glass ceilings in America. But, she is paying for it on many fronts.
As a woman, gifted with ambition and assertiveness, I’ve hit a lot of glass ceilings, and brick walls through the years – as well as fielded questions and disparaging looks for my desire to lead (especially in circles of conservative faith).
I’ve coached many women who have wrestled with navigating how to embrace their unique strengths, and effectively lead with confidence in a “good old boys club” world. It begins with refusing to accept glass ceiling limits and archaic mindsets.
Disclaimer: I agree – not all men, organizations, companies are guilty of these attitudes, disrespect, and discrimination. God love you guys, because I sure do!
These questions and reflections are in response to the other guys. (insert smile)
Have you ever been criticized, ostracized, ignored or dismissed because you are an assertive woman in a leadership role?
- I have been negatively called everything from aggressive to unsubmissive.
- I have been told multiple times, “If a man said or did that, it wouldn’t be a problem. He would be assertive, bold, leader, but it isn’t the same for women.”
- I have weathered dagger looks, raised eyebrows and clucking tongues for speaking up, jumping in, disagreeing with the status quo, and/or wanting to shatter a long held glass ceiling.
Can you relate?
Shame, struggle, defensiveness, and defeat chased me every time I heard these words or felt the arrows of judgement. For a long time, I wondered why God made me this way. I became skilled at playing mental whack-a-mole, desperately trying to be different in order to fit in.
Massive Failure Alert!
This internal war sidelined me for years. Through therapy, coaching, and surrounding myself with people who support and enjoy who I am as an ambitious, assertive, driven leader. They encourage me to live and work full out from my strengths, chipping away until there is no glass ceiling.
As I have gotten older, I’ve put down the whack-a-mole bat through and embraced the wonder of how I am wired, even in the midst of bruises to my head and heart from hitting glass ceilings and brick walls.
At times, it has been difficult to find acceptance in a man’s world – with both men and women. Raising daughters brought this issue to the forefront.
I continue to coach women to embrace their ambitions and unique strengths. If we want a seat at the table, we need to boldly pull up a chair and participate.
Sure it will be awkward, lonely, uncomfortable at times – but change begins outside everyone’s comfort zone.
But it is doable:
- Join an all women mastermind (mine is called Amplify) made up of like minded women colleagues committed to encourage and champion each other, rather than compete and criticize.
- Have a posse of women leaders on speed dial when you take hits or are tempted to minimize your strengths.
- Read great articles about women who are forging ahead on the less traveled path for encouragement, ideas, and confidence.
Thanks to my friend and woman leader expert, Ann Vertel for this article and the reminder to work, live, and act as if we belong in the highest levels of leadership, because we do!
How have you handled the times you hit the glass ceiling, banged into the brick wall of criticism, or were tempted to shy away from being a strong woman leader?