Developing as a Woman in Leadership

Women care about the work they do. It doesn’t matter if they choose to stay home and raise their children, provide middle management in a growing organization, navigate the path of entrepreneurship, or lead at the top as a high-powered executive or CEO.

Wherever you are, you care about the work that you do because it’s yours and it’s a tangible example of your mind, body, and spirit pouring over a problem that needs solving.

I think the hardest thing I’ve experience as a woman in the workplace is the constant battle of needing to overcompensate. I’m going to break this down further, but the bottom line is this: there’s an added pressure to excuse what’s natural to a woman in order to be accepted as an equal to her male counterparts, and even more so if you’re looking to move up the corporate latter.

First thing’s first – this is not a message that men are incapable or less-than and women should rule all. That’s a tired perspective, and frankly, an uneducated and offensive point of view that I don’t share.

I have worked with many men – I’ve had mostly male bosses, and many male peers – and the majority of men I’ve worked alongside of have been incredibly gifted, educated, and creative individuals. Some of my greatest connections I’ve made are men who I’ve worked with extensively and have grown to know and love as true friends.

I have the deepest and utmost respect for the group of men I’ve been privileged to create with and learn from, and most of them will remain in my network forever.

Men are a gift as much as women, and teams are stronger when they have both voices represented at the table.

As a woman who has spent the majority of her working life as the only female at the conference table, I have learned a lot about women in leadership in a male-dominant environment, paving the way for other female leaders, and breaking down the barriers that currently exist for women in the workplace.

And ladies, this is written to you. Because I see you and I know what you’re going through. I know that you are constantly battling an inner voice telling you that you’re not good enough, qualified enough, or worthy of that promotion.

I know what it feels like to be the only woman in the room and still be overlooked because you’re colleagues didn’t think to include you in their closed-door decision.

I know what’s it like to be career-driven and have the desire to rise up in ranks, only to find you’re the only woman there, and you’re left wondering if you’re even welcome.

Sadly, I also know how it feels to be siloed and even scrutinized by other women because your desire to be a strong leader doesn’t always translate to other women well and the ones who are threatened by you choose to disrespect you behind your back.

And for the love of all women everywhere for all time, I know what it’s like to feel like you have to hide your emotions because being emotional means you’re weak. And if you’re weak, you’re not good enough, so you convince yourself that emotions are bad and you become apologetic about them.

But let me tell you something. Emotions matter. Your emotions matter.

I get it. I’ve been there and I’ve lived it. Even if you work from home, you experience this sad reality on some level. But I’m here to tell you that it’s okay. Because I believe that now is the time for women to raise the bar on their leadership potential and grab hold of what’s in front of them.

There is no reason why you can’t have what you want in your career, despite the hurtles you’re facing. Now is the time to rise up and go after it – to put aside your excuses and the reasons why you aren’t treated equal, and start paving the way for other women who are looking to you to be the first to walk a road that so many will walk after.

How To Level Up Your Leadership As A Woman

Ladies, you must know that there is a place for you even if it doesn’t look like there is. You must also know that other women are counting on you to live fully into your potential because they need your voice going ahead and making a way for them.

You may not see it or realize it, but if you are a good leader and act through honesty and humility, you influence others all around you for the better. The ones that have a “problem” with you are most likely threatened by you. Everyone else will respect someone who brings integrity, wisdom, and beauty to their work. If that’s you, keep reading.

I spent the last 15 years learning what it means to be a professional woman who not only cares about her work, but wants to move it forward. Most of what I learned is simply through mistakes I’ve made along the way, which allowed me to mature and grow and in turn, learn a new and better angle that really developed my leadership.

So ladies, without further ado, here are five things you need to do to level up your leadership:

Know You Are Qualified

You have been given the job you’re in. That’s right. You didn’t steal it or magically fall into it, it was given to you. And do you know why? Because you deserve it. That’s it. You showed up, proved you were capable, and left a lasting impression that led your supervisor to extend you an offer.

This doesn’t mean you’re automatically getting paid what you deserve. This also doesn’t mean you won’t be challenged or faced with new ideas or systems that you have to learn. A good leader is always growing; always learning. A good leader allows others to teach her. A good leader chooses to believe she is qualified even if she doesn’t feel like she is.

Adopt the fact that your qualifications have less to do with your background, diploma, experience, or who you know, and more to do with the fact that you simply have the job and have been able to lead through it.

And guess what? If you’re qualified for this job, there’s no reason you aren’t qualified for the next one.

Set The Example

Did you know that there are other women who are watching you? They may not ever tell you, but they are there and what you say and do matters – not just to you, but to them too.

It matters how you behave, what you say, and how you carry yourself because everything you do will have an impact on others – especially if you are a natural leader.

Natural leaders are also naturally inspiring. Other people gravitate towards a natural leader because there’s just something about them that’s contagious. Tap into that and hold that responsibility in high regard because the example you set for others should be one worth following.

It will not only create a safe place where others can follow in your footsteps, but you’ll be slowly laying the bricks to your own future with every example you set.

So how do you lead by example?

  • Be Honest
    Honesty is more than not telling lies.
    Don’t say you’re going to do something and not follow through.
    Don’t commit when you know you can’t produce.
    Don’t portray some sort of facade that isn’t an accurate depiction of who you are. Don’t take credit when it’s not yours to take.
    Know who you are and be that person to everyone.
    Know when to say yes and when to say no.
    Ask for help when you need it.
  • Be Dignified
    Hold yourself to a higher standard.
    Don’t talk about others behind their backs.
    Confront people directly with concerns.
    Treat everyone around you with respect and integrity – even if they don’t deserve it.
    Be above reproach.
    Treat your outside appearance professionally and with kindness.
    Think before you speak.
    Don’t make brash decisions with little to no regard for others who will be impacted.
  • Be Humble
    Be a team-player.
    Give credit where credit is due.
    Be willing to pass the credit on when appropriate.
    Be willing to take the fall for others’ honest mistakes.
    Celebrate your colleagues and employees in front of others.
  • Be Clear
    Establish clear expectations up front.
    Get to the point.
    Address issues and conflicts head on.
    Provide honest and direct feedback.
    Don’t speak vaguely or in ambiguities.
  • Be Kind
    Don’t ever call someone out publicly.
    Offer encouragement through affirmations, gifts, and investing time.
    Offer grace first.
    Be willing to offer your time.
    Provide training.
    Use positive reinforcement.
    Give compliments.

Create The Path

Just because it’s not the reality, doesn’t mean you can’t have what you want. A few years ago I found myself in a tough position at my job. I had worked really hard for the course of 8 months to prove I was worthy of a promotion that I had been after for a long time.

I woke up one day and realized that sadly, the thing that I wanted wasn’t going to be handed to me – even if I did deserve it. I knew I was capable and deserving of the promotion and I also knew that if I didn’t go after what I wanted, I was going to continue feeling passed over and ultimately, someone else may be brought in for the position. In my mind, there was no reason it shouldn’t be me.

So that’s what I did. I gathered all the data from the last 8 months and spent an entire weekend crafting a proposal that I would present on my behalf – reasons why I was deserving.

Don’t be afraid to put yourself out there. Do your research, take the necessary time to formulate a solid plan, and follow through. The worst that can happen is they will say no. So ask yourself how you will respond if the response is not ideal. Be prepared to hear all the different angles.

Even if you don’t get what you want, you are forcing yourself to do something hard – to voice your opinion, speak your mind, and bring awareness to what you are exerpiencing, which is most often something your boss is unaware of.

But, you will set yourself a part. When you’re willing to put in the work and speak your mind, you raise the bar on your leadership and what you can handle and are willing to confront.

Regardless of the outcome, I promise that speaking up for yourself with poise and confidence will always benefit you.

For me, it paid off. I was granted my request. I was given the promotion with a new title and pay increase and I stepped up to the challenge with a whole new appreciation for what I was doing. It also gave me the ability to paint a new picture of who I was and how I could handle myself. This proved to aid me over my remaining time in that position.

What is it in your career you’d like to see different? How can you create a path for yourself – and others – by going after what you want to see changed?

Claim Confidence

Confidence is a funny thing. Sometimes you have to act confident before you feel it. Don’t think of it as a feeling, but more of a decision or reality that you are going to choose.

And just know – like everyone else – we all struggle with feeling confident. We tell ourselves lies in the form of internal self-doubt and we start to believe that we aren’t good enough, capable, or qualified enough to be in the position we’re in.

Stop. It.

You are where you are for a reason. It doesn’t matter how you got there, what you studied in college, or who you know. What matters is you are in the position you’re in for such a time as this. This is your assignment and you are more than deserving.

So choose confidence today and choose it again tomorrow. Walk into the office with your head held high. Tackle those meetings with the doubtful eyes staring back at you and snickering remarks made behind your back, full-well knowing you are exactly who God made you to be and your voice is valuable.

The Time For You Is Now

Sister, this is your time.

There is no reason why you can’t have what you want despite the hurtles you’re facing. In fact, the time is now because if you don’t, someone else will, and we need to create a better future for our daughters and our sons.

But there is a glimmer of hope.
I can see it.
Society is changing.

Our culture is shifting and I have seen this through the conversations I’m having with more and more women and men who advocate to make companies an environment that’s accepting of a variety of voices and perspectives.

It’s exciting to see this shift take place. As a mother of a daughter and a son, I am privileged to take part in creating a better world for both men and women.

A world where my daughter will be welcomed and sought after to co-lead with open arms and my son will be used to a world where women’s voices are welcomed and will naturally invite them into the decisions he manages.

And the best part? Each one of us can play a part in creating this change and paving the way for other women to do the same.

Be The Woman Others Want To Follow

As women, we naturally relate to each other. So when I see a woman in leadership ahead of me – especially in my own place of work – I am inspired in a unique way. I automatically relate to her perspective in a way different from my male counterparts and for the first time, I feel like I have an advocate.

If you have that in your place of work, consider yourself blessed. Take advantage of the women leaders around you; lean into them. When there’s someone ahead of me who leads well, I know I have somewhere to move because she has already paved the way.

If you don’t have a female leader ahead of you, then you may have to create a road for yourself, and that is not a story to be sorry about because you will undoubtedly become the hero for other women who are looking to you to do that very thing.

*this article was originally published by Danielle Morgan on her own blog here.

about the author…


Danielle is a co-founder of The Brave Collective, writer, creative director, career coach and speaker. She is a wife of 16 years, mom of 2, and is passionate about championing women to develop and use their voices bravely in the area they influence.

You can keep up with Danielle on instagram and learn more about her here.

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