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The One Big Lie Women in Leadership Tell Themselves, and How We Break Through

Tell me if this sounds familiar.  As a woman in a leadership role, I have watched the same story unfold day after day throughout my career.  Brilliant female executives showing up in meetings across the world to deliver their ideas to colleagues and clients. These strategic executives thoughtfully prepare their work to inform, share results, […]

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Jennifer O'Donnell

Tell me if this sounds familiar.  As a woman in a leadership role, I have watched the same story unfold day after day throughout my career.  Brilliant female executives showing up in meetings across the world to deliver their ideas to colleagues and clients. These strategic executives thoughtfully prepare their work to inform, share results, or gain alignment from a wider group of stakeholders.  Yet, almost daily, even though they have put in the time and the work, somehow day after day, the post-meeting dialogue that shows up is the same.  Often, as women in leadership, we follow up with female colleagues and find a way to question ourselves or diminish our worth by playing into the one big lie: I will only be seen as smart and credible if I keep it short and simple, and act like a man.  These thoughts in our heads play on repeat so frequently that they have become beliefs and part of the corporate culture.  

For the women who are reading this, ask yourself, have you recently called, texted or started a chat with a female colleague post-meeting to ask one or more of the common questions that perpetuate the myth that women need to communicate like men in the workplace to be successful?

  • Did I make sense?”
  • “Was I clear?”
  • “Did I ramble?”
  • “Did I seem confident?”
  • “Did I talk too much?”

And during those meetings, did you fall victim to framing your discussions with: 

  • “I’m sorry…”
  • “Could I just add…”

Always apologizing for having a voice.

You see, as women leaders, we have been programmed to act as men do in the workplace. We have been told to “be concise,” “be succinct,” “stick to the facts,” “keep it high-level;” basically adopting the “normal” behaviors of our male counterparts.  But men and women are different.  They see the world differently and interact differently because of their experiences.  These differences in thinking and communicating can be value-add for business if we can tap into the power and greatness of diverse points of view. 

At a time when we are looking for ways to establish bolder ways of thinking in corporations, and create workplace cultures that thrive on innovative ideas, isn’t it our duty to include diverse points of view by allowing women to thrive in dialogue, build consensus and collaboration? If so, are we failing to allow our women in leadership to fully show up and thrive by owning their authentic voice at the table?  

Women are storytellers, thinkers, reflectors, consensus builders who thrive on discussion and collaboration.  Are we failing to allow our female executives to contribute to their fullest potential because we have adopted the one big lie: that we need to act like the men who have gone before us, that we need to be quick, short, and strictly factual /non-emotional when presenting our ideas? 

I believe we need to continue to nurture our leaders by allowing them to contribute using their voice, their experience, their special skills and talents.  We can we empower women to sit with deeper confidence at the tables in our organizations.  

Here are two things we can do today to empower women at work:

  1. Women Leaders: Please disconnect that voice in your head that tells you that you are showing up wrong.  Replace that voice with the strong and supportive one that connects to the power that lies within in you- your authenticity, vulnerability, presence and true story, not the lie.  Stop apologizing for having a voice beyond the bullet points, and allow yourself to keep the conversation going if you are called to do so. 
  1. Colleagues: Please value the qualities and traits of the female experience and perspective.  Allow your colleagues to speak in their true voices, allow them to finish their thoughts and sentences, and champion the inclusivity of all voices in life & work. 

Now, more than ever, we know that for organizations to move, grow and innovate, we need to think differently to find solutions, inspire and ignite change.  You can start today by creating an inclusive environment that allows people and ideas to thrive.

Discover more about the “Lies and Truths of Leadership” in my new masterclass coming soon

@ lifeluxuryandthepursuitofhappiness 

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