leadership advice, leadership strategies, women in leadership

Are You Getting Bad Advice? 5 Myths That Hold Women Leaders Back

Women striving for leadership success often face outdated, limiting advice that undermines their true potential in the workplace. It's time to dismantle these so-called pieces of advice and claim our space as strong, authentic leaders by implementing effective leadership strategies.

This blog post, inspired by the podcast Communicate to Lead, challenges five common pieces of advice and offers empowering alternatives.

The Challenge of Leadership Advice

As women, we're often told to "lean in," "be less emotional," and "focus on being likable." Sounds familiar, right?
While these pieces of advice are given with good intentions, they tend to overlook the unique strengths and challenges women face in leadership roles.
Take Jane, a brilliant engineer in a male-dominated team, for instance. She found herself caught between being "too passive" and "too aggressive."
This dichotomy highlights a glaring issue: the narrow and often conflicting definitions of good leadership for women.

Dismantling 5 pieces of advice that women often receive

Advice #1: Always "Lean In" and Be Assertive

The "lean in" mantra encourages women to step forward and assert themselves. However, the expectation that all successful leaders must be extroverted and fiercely assertive overlooks the diversity of leadership styles, especially among women in leadership. Assertiveness is often perceived differently in women, leading to a double standard that does more harm than good.

Empowering Alternative: Strategic Advocacy

Rather than conforming to a one-size-fits-all approach, I advocate for strategic advocacy. This involves:

  • Knowing and playing to your strengths: Don't try to be someone you're not. Are you empathetic? A detail-oriented whiz? A skilled negotiator? Understand your unique leadership value.
  • Tailoring your approach for the most impact: Think strategically about how to have the most impact. Maybe your persuasive power shines in one-on-one meetings, not in huge boardrooms. Or you're a brilliant writer, so crafting a strong proposal is your power move.
  • Building confidence incrementally: It's okay to start small! Raise your hand in that staff meeting, even if your voice is shaky. Slowly and steadily, you'll build confidence and find your unique way to make your presence felt through effective leadership strategies

Advice #2: Don't Show Weakness or Vulnerability

There is a pervasive belief that leaders must always appear in control and invulnerable. This myth fosters a culture of distance and the fear of admitting mistakes. When we refuse to show vulnerability, we miss out on connecting with others on a deeper level.

Empowering Alternative: Strategic Vulnerability

When you show appropriate vulnerability, you can strengthen your leadership by:

  • Building trust and empathy
  • Normalizing growth and learning
  • Framing challenges as opportunities for collaboration

Advice #3: Separate Your Emotions from Your Work

The advice to leave emotions at the door is unrealistic and damaging, especially for women in leadership expected to be empathetic leaders.

Empowering Alternative: Emotional Intelligence

The goal isn't to become unfeeling. It's about channeling your emotions, not letting them run the show. Here's how:

  • Acknowledge and process: Instead of pushing emotions away, give yourself a moment. Ask yourself, “What am I feeling? Why?” Labeling the emotion can help remove its initial sting.
  • Mindful reflection: Don't react immediately if strong emotions hit right before a big meeting. Take a few deep breaths, splash some water on your face, and do what you need to regulate before engaging.
  • Use it as fuel: If you're angry about an injustice, channel that anger into finding solutions and advocating for change. If you’re excited about a project, let that passion spread to your team!

Embracing emotions as valuable data can enhance your leadership by:

  • Acknowledging and processing emotions wisely
  • Using emotions to fuel positive action and decision-making
  • Developing deeper connections with your team

Emotional intelligence is a leadership superpower. It helps us better understand ourselves, connect with our teams on a deeper level, and ultimately make decisions that are informed not just by logic but by real human understanding through effective leadership strategies.

Advice #4: Don't Take Things Personally

While it's important to differentiate between constructive criticism and bias, telling women in leadership not to take things personally can invalidate their experiences with microaggressions and systemic bias.

Empowering Alternative: Discernment and Systemic Change

Effective strategies include:

  • Reflecting on the validity of feedback: Is this feedback valid or rooted in bias? Getting honest input from trusted mentors or sponsors can be crucial for this kind of reality check.
  • Building a supportive network: Have allies, both men and women, to discuss your experiences. A safe space to vent and analyze what's happening can be a lifeline.
  • Advocating for inclusive and equitable work environments: Can you mentor other women? Advocate for more inclusive feedback processes? Be a leader for positive change!

Advice #5: Focus on Likability

Prioritizing likability can prevent women in leadership from engaging in difficult conversations, challenging the status quo, and holding others accountable.

Empowering Alternative: Respect Over Likability

You should aim for respect instead by:

  • Demonstrating competence and decisiveness: Be the expert in your field. People may not always like your decisions, but they'll respect your knowledge and ability.
  • Balancing empathy with firmness: You can be both caring and firm. Show empathy in your communication style, but don't hesitate to make tough calls for the sake of being liked.
  • Acting with integrity: Do what you say you'll do. When people see your word as your bond, respect builds naturally.

Empowering Alternatives

The essence of effective leadership lies in self-awareness, adaptability, and authenticity. It's about knowing how best to assert yourself, recognizing when vulnerability is a strength, and understanding the power of emotional intelligence.

Tailoring your leadership style to fit your unique attributes allows you to lead with confidence and integrity.

Call to Action

Reflect on the leadership advice you've been following. Does it empower you, or does it require you to be someone you're not?

If you're ready for a new playbook—one that celebrates your strengths and embraces your individuality—I'm here to help. Visit my website to book a free consult.

Great leadership embodies a blend of strength and compassion, strategy, and empathy. It's complex, but with the right leadership strategies, it's within your reach. Own it!

Conclusion

Thank you for joining me on this journey to dismantle the generic advice that holds women leaders back.

Remember, great communication is at the heart of inspiring leadership. Keep learning and growing, and let's pave the way for more authentic and effective leadership together.

Free guide

Are you tired of waiting on the sidelines for that well-deserved raise or promotion?

Unlock your negotiation potential with Own Your Worth: Ditch the Fear and Get That Leadership Promotion, a power-packed guide designed for women leaders ready to claim their next raise or promotion.

    By signing up to receive this guide you also agree to receive further communication from The Tailored Approach.

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    Free guide

    Are you tired of waiting on the sidelines for that well-deserved raise or promotion?

    Unlock your negotiation potential with Own Your Worth: Ditch the Fear and Get That Leadership Promotion, a power-packed guide designed for women leaders ready to claim their next raise or promotion.

      By signing up to receive this guide you also agree to receive further communication from The Tailored Approach.

      own your worth mockup2

      Own Your Worth

      Ditch the fear

      & get that leadership

      Promotion

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