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April 26, 2012

7 Ways Women Sabotage Their Leadership, Part 1

Understanding how we undermine ourselves



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Over the years I have met many fantastic women leaders. I lean forward to hear their every word and am always grateful to spend a spare hour with them over a cup of coffee or on a walk. I have also met some not-so-great female leaders—the kind whose staffs live with a low-grade fear in their eyes. How can you ensure you fall into the first category and not the second?

Here are seven things that, if left unchecked, can undermine you as a female leader:

1. Allow “It’s because I’m a woman!” to slip into your thinking. This subtle shift in vocabulary can slide into our lives when we’re not paying attention and change the way we see ourselves and others. We can start to perceive criticism as discrimination due to gender when gender doesn’t have anything to do with the issue at hand.

How do you combat this kind of thinking? Remove the gender wild card by asking yourself how you can be a more effective leader. Ask questions such as How can I better communicate with others? Do I need to pursue training through books, blogs, or events that can help me grow? When you’re a great leader, gender has a tendency to fall to the wayside—not just in your own mind but in the minds of those around you.

2. Be unaware of your biology. As women, we need to acknowledge our bodies are different than men’s. We need to face simple biological realities such as our monthly hormone fluxes as well as the challenges created by peri-, pre-, and post-menopausal states. Sometimes our hormones and other biological issues present minor obstacles we need sensitivity, grace, and some medical attention to overcome.

For the next month or two, consider setting aside some time to consider how your hormones are affecting how you feel and approach each day. Are there moments when your response to a situation or person is out of proportion? Are you experiencing any mood swings that are affecting your work or relationships? Are you finding yourself overly tired, discouraged, or experiencing significant changes in weight? Consider an annual physical or checkup to make sure you’re taking care of your body properly and ensure your biology doesn’t get the best of you.

3. Let your momma bear instincts maul others. Many women have a very deep sense of injustice. This is a beautiful God-given gift used to meet the needs of people around us. However, sometimes we need to place healthy boundaries around this gift so we don’t end up hurting those we long to help.

When you feel momma bear rising up, don’t react to the injustice you are seeing, but respond out of wisdom, grace and love. Take a deep breath. Pause for a moment of prayer. Consider asking for some time to think about the situation before you answer. You may want to reschedule a meeting or do more research to find out the other side of the story. You are not denying the need nor are you squelching your feelings, but you are placing healthy parameters around your God-given gift so you can respond appropriately and in a God-honoring manner to everyone involved.

To be continued…


Margaret Feinberg is a popular speaker and author of more than two dozen books, including Hungry for God: Hearing His Voice in the Ordinary and the Everyday. You can follow Margaret on Twitter at www.twitter.com/mafeinberg.

Related Tags: church, leadership, women

Comments

This was a wonderful article and full of wisdom. Can't wait for part 2!!!

Thank you for posting about 7 things about women in leadership. This is also a gage for me to see that I am doing the right thing and not walking around with an attitude of being a "woman." or screaming "discrimination." Also the peri and pre menopausal stages of life I notice that I am taking note of making sure my attitude is love, joy and peace, not giving in to the emotions or the irritations.

But what if gender is a legitimate reason? I served as an elder for 2.5 years, and then all of a sudden a group within the church decided that it wasn't biblical to have women elders. Prior to that, I had male elders deciding what was and was not appropriate for me to handle when issues fell clearly under my area of responsibility. One of these issues I might add, I was handling in a much more proactive, sensitive manner than they did.

I agree with Pat. Sometimes gender really is the issue. No amount of competence will matter, if the issue is that people don't want a woman leading.

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