Sheryl Sandberg’s recent comments about women and leadership hit a nerve. As I travel the country speaking to women, I focus on a central theme of women-leadership-power. And, though I know that most women believe they are powerful, at the same time, they feel frustrated that their power isn’t recognized or appreciated. Marianne Williamson hit the nail on the head when she talked about “our deepest fear.”
I believe women are natural born leaders. They lead in the home, in school organizations, etc. Yet when I talk to women about stepping into leadership at work, more than half of them reject themselves as leaders. It’s OK to be in charge as a middle manager, but not in a leadership role. So in my mind, it’s a puzzle.
Of course, something that seems to be trendy these days is something called a “leading from behind” strategy. However in vogue that might seem, the truth is that leading from behind makes no sense. As a man once explained (but in crudely more descriptive words than this), “If you aren’t the lead dog, you’re always looking at someone else’s behind.” Clearly it’s a losing tactic.
Ladies, leaders lead. They articulate a vision and show the way. Sometimes they stand in front and others follow. Other times they delegate, guide and manage. But it’s always after they show and tell others what they want and then they watch to make sure a project or a company is moving toward that vision, going in that direction.
Taking the lead is what women do that in the home. It’s a skill all of us know well. And if women already have expertise in the skill of leadership at home, why is it so challenging to transfer that skill to the workplace?
One possible answer may be found in the story Sheryl Sandberg tells about her boss, Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg. According to Sandberg, he gave her this interesting advice, “Sheryl, your Number One problem is you care too much about being liked and about always pleasing everyone. You’re never going to always please everyone. If you say something that matters, you’re certainly not going to please everyone.”
Are women afraid to say something that matters, or take leadership responsibility, because they are concerned that if it’s popular, they will be rejected, called the “B”-word or mocked? Maybe fear of rejection explains why women are reticent to lead.
That might be plausible in some reality but in our reality, specifically in the home, every woman makes decisions that her kids don’t like, and they aren’t shy about letting her know. And, while kids love mom in childhood, moms are hated though the teen and young adult years. To top it off, every mother knows how society always blames the mom for everything – there’s a bevy of clichés laden with mom-guilt.
If women can withstand rejection from the most important people in their lives, why are they so afraid of it in the workplace?
Until women learn to take the lead – from in front (vs. from behind), they will always be the victim of a glass ceiling. And the company won’t be at fault and it’ll have nothing to do with a corporate glass ceiling. The ceiling that will hold her back is the one she puts up – her very own personal glass ceiling.
Copyright 2013. Annmarie Kelly, All Rights Reserved.
Annmarie Kelly is offering one of her most popular webinars, How To Talk So People Will Listen on Tuesday, March 26 at 11:30oam. For information: How To Talk