In a Leader’s Shoes: Are Women not Leaders?

‘There is a kind of strength that is almost frightening in [all] women. It’s as if a steel rod runs right through the head down to the feet.’ -Maya Angelou

It is not a new thing that often times women are undermined when it comes to the sphere of leadership. But women have always been in leadership positions- whether as nurturers, decision makers and multi-taskers. It is only sad that society equates and constraints women with limiting words that do not go beyond the title of ‘wife’ and ‘mother’ and therefore do not capture the overall greatness of women. But, one thing that is certain is that women have always been in the shoes of leadership.

Going back in time to the Judeo-Christian creation story of man and woman. The woman was seen as taking charge and making decisions and even taking responsibility for the husband.

Even up to the life changing efforts of Mary Slessor in Africa, to the scientific input of women like Katherine Johnson, Mary Jackson and Dorothy Vaughn, the noteworthy works of women can be felt in the world.

Even up till today books are being written, media outlets are weighing in by hosting forums and producing special reports, and affinity groups in the workplace are engaging and leaning in about the leadership deposit in the woman. What is this about?

LEADERSHIP IS NO GENES

Condoleezza Rice

It has become quite obvious that leadership is not gender specific and qualities of leaders are not genetically inherited.

Vince Lombardi said; ” Leaders are made, they are not born. They are made by hard effort, which is the price which all of us must pay to achieve any goal that is worthwhile.”

 

 WOMEN ARE NOT NEW TO LEADERSHIP

Female influence cannot be denied throughout history. Women have been voices. From Sojourner Truth, to Queen Elizabeth I, Cleopatra VII, Rosa Parks, Mary Slessor, Wangari Maathai, Mary Seacole, Indira Gandhi, Oprah Winfrey, Condoleezza Rice and Hilary Clinton.

These women have lit up the world from their little corners. Who can deny the ripple effect of the simple act by Rosa Parks when she refused to give up her seat and how it begun a revolution. There are countless of instance that point to the outstanding leadership of women.

Perhaps the relatively small number of women executives in our organizations breeds the perception of women in leadership as twenty-first century concept of bossiness and misogyny whereas records show the indelible impact made by women. In reality leadership is not by virtue of position but impact.

WOMEN HAVE CAPACITY TO FUNCTION AT ALL FRONTS

Michelle Obama so aptly fit the role of First lady while playing Wife and Mum

Women possess the innate capacity to function on many fronts. At the boardroom, as wife, and mother, and they also advocate well for peace. Some women define having all this as the balance of a successful career and a successful family life. Women can obviously multi-task.

This multi-tasking ability has made them to effectively and efficiently lead in their careers and at the same time take charge of their personal and family life.

Women like Michelle Obama, and Hilary Clinton have proven that women can succeed at juggling career and nurturing family.

That balance is a personal choice because the dynamics of the workplace will have an impact on one’s personal life. How women manage it well to become successful at both makes them effective at multi-tasking.

WOMEN HAVE COMPETENCIES

Research has shown that leadership is about competencies, not necessarily about wearing a traditional Leadership hat at the office alone, but at all relevant situations.

Competencies such as demonstrating communication and social skills, utilizing creativity and innovation, problem solving, demonstrating judgment and team leadership, resourcefulness among others.

Even women within the home, as leadership is not just leading in the boardroom but the embodiment of who you are, and a reflection of self-leadership.

So, if this is the case, why do we not have more women leaders? The answer is not only in possessing these competencies but in bringing them to bear in the workplace and in relevant situations.

THE TAKEAWAY FOR WOMEN IS OWN YOUR COMPETENCIES

The take-away for women in leadership is to walk in their truth. If you are great at strategy or leading teams, networking or analysis, own it.

Represent your skills and competencies. The diversity of experiences, perspective and values that women bring to executive decision-making, yields competitive advantage and creative team dynamics. So, for women, leading can be easy if you do what you have honed.

Thanks to the awareness that makes girls to be given equal opportunities as the male child, so they can shine on time.

Here, is to the strength, perseverance, grit, tenacity, and wit- that the woman continues to bring to the table.

 


In a Leader’s Shoes: Is Nurturing a Word for Women or Leadership?

When the word ‘nurture’ comes to mind, words like cultivate, growth, development and not ‘women’ come to mind. Many times, women are termed nurturers; a term meant to relegate them to just raising a home-front. But in fact, nurturing is a key leadership skill.

According to John Maxwell nurturing is a Leadership Attribute. This important ingredient is a factor in determining how you can ‘influence’ as a leader. Since it turns out women are great at these (as you have all concluded), then we should make a case for them in Leadership.

Let’s Change the Narrative

Being Nurturers has been a known disadvantage for a longtime now; that women are occupied with raising a home-front and consequently are not able to match the effectiveness of men at the workplace.

Many times, women who have aced at the work are seen as over-ambitious or had to not show the family-side of them. Women have had to prove the point to Superiors…to be promoted.

Questions like ‘Can a woman have it all?’ have arisen. And the phrase ‘We women have to work twice as hard’ is embraced. I don’t think driving women to the wall makes a case for them in leadership.

Yes women can have it all. In fact being a natural at nurturing is an added advantage, as there are many takeaways from it, and we must make the most of this transferable skill.

nurturing

Left: Ursula Burns who made history in 2009 by becoming the first black woman to head a Fortune 500 company as CEO of Xerox. She originally joined Xerox as an intern in 1980 and will now serve as chairman of the Xerox board. – Reported by Yahoo

What Does Nurturing Entail

Taking Responsibility for Something

Nurturing is a show of responsibility. Beyond the act of ‘raising’, it is filling a real need.

It takes ‘taking responsibility’, to nurture. Be it an individual, the future, a brilliant idea. Not only for personal benefits. Many people fail to take responsibility, because they are consumed by personal benefits.

Many Years ago Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat for a white person in the bus. The impact of her actions didn’t just trigger a 381-day Montgomery bus boycott, but a ripple effect forever. It raised concerns on racial segregation and many years later things are a lot better.

She didn’t stand up only for herself, but for many generations coming after her. She has changed a narrative, by taking responsibility for the change she wanted to see.

Showing Dedication by Being Sold Out

Leadership means being ‘sold out’. And as in nurturing roles, it requires being deliberate, and out-rightly invested.

As a leader you are being entrusted with teams, projects, ideas, and you must be deliberate in nurturing it to attend its fullest potential.

This is usually required during motherhood. To nurture a fetus to adulthood; to be a significant part of someone’s growth journey, nurse their talents and ambitions, and to raise them. To get the best of what is being nurtured, there has to be maximum dedication.

In leadership, nurturing is required to harness the potential, and grow the people we are leading. Also, leaders can influence people they are dedicated to.

Tara Fela-Durotoye once narrated how. “A team member lost their child early hours of the morning and I was the first he called”. As a leader, a show of dedication is that you are invested in your team members’ well-being, and in return earn their trust.

Not just with people, everything we do. They become a reflection of how much we are dedicated to making it work. They are either up to full potential or not.

nurturing

Tara Fela-Durotoye; CEO House of Tara. House of Tara recently made the list of top 100 best places to work in Nigeria by Jobberman.

[Tweet “Not just that Rome wasn’t built in a day…a brick was laid ‘every day’.”]

Being Patient to get the best out of a Something

Patience is a skill needed even in nurturing our personal growth. To be masters and leaders of our journey, we have to be given to patience. It’s not just that Rome wasn’t built in a day, it is that a brick was laid ‘every day’.

Jim Kwik narrates how he had a brain injury that didn’t leave him the same. He grew up with learning difficulties, and literally had to throw away his dreams.

At some point, he found succor in stories like Einstein’s who was this genius that was dyslexic. He was also really fascinated by the super heroes; X-Men and the fact that the school of superheroes (in X-Men) was in his neighborhood.

Jim turned his life around by learning how to master his own brain to make it work for him and is now sharing his learning techniques to help people who are slow at learning to learn fast.

One of the most important lessons from his story was that he had to be patient, to nurture himself, to get the best of himself. Interestingly, he eventually had his encounter with the school of superheroes when the Chairman of 20th Century Fox later invited him to the set of X-Men.

He says “A super-hero for me is somebody who is on the path of discovering and developing their superpowers; their strengths, their unique ability, their unique talent…”

We are Masters in our own uniqueness. Leaders are people who are patient with themselves, and with others, to unravel their full potential. Like Einstein; it takes one thousand times to discover a light bulb.

[Tweet “Nurturing is about transforming nothing into something.”]

Belief

It is like planting a seed and believing that it will become a Tree. This becomes the fuel of dedication and patience, because our faith will become our reality eventually.

Linda Ikeji broke grounds for blogging in Nigeria. It hadn’t been popularized at the time. Even when a client reached out to advertise, she had no idea how much to charge.

Linda Ikeji Blog is now the go-to place for gossip in Nigeria, and has become a thriving business, even currently expanding – the fruit of her initial toiling. She says she had to work from home at a time, when she couldn’t afford an office space anymore.

Nurturing is about keeping the faith, rising above the tides, and transforming nothing into something. Faith is about going beyond ideas, and mustering up grit to transform our brainchildren into reality.

The reason for Women’s Leadership

Want to make a case for women in leadership? Then utilize their nurturing potential who are not only able capable of grooming the home front but nurturing careers, ideas, businesses, but because they have invaluable experience from the former.

They have been nurturing the future; a role we have come to stereotype them for. What the society fails to do is deploy the dedication, responsibility, patience, affection and other leadership attributes that they bear as a result of being nurturers.


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