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Lead Like a Woman: How to Crack the Glass Ceiling in 2017

Lead Like a Woman: How to Crack the Glass Ceiling in 2017

What does it mean to lead like a woman?

With the public eye on this historic election, new women’s conferences popping up across the globe, and membership in women’s organizations on the rise, a different answer to this question seems to be on the tip of every thought leader’s tongue.

Rather than add one more item to the ever-growing list, I’d like to start with what it isn’t.

When I was 24 years old I was offered what I thought would be my dream job. A global organization was offering me a position to serve as a cultural awareness advisor and communication coach for one of their top executives in Shanghai. I was over the moon about the offer... there was just one problem.

By the time the offer came in, I had worked so hard and undergone so much strain getting to that point that I was on the verge of burnout. A mental breakdown and major illness would send me careening into a five-month crash that re-wrote my story. It took me the next few years to fully recover.

[Related: Time Off Helps You Thrive in Life and Career]

Of course, not every woman’s journey looks the same. Some of us face big breakdowns like mine. For others, a series of small events add up to a lack of traction in the long run. But the vast majority of women have a tale to tell about a time when their momentum came to a crashing halt.

I’ve seen in the past 10 years of coaching women leaders on resilience that these kinds of moments are indeed the way the glass ceiling looks in many of our lives.

And frankly, the problem isn’t just that it happens. The bigger problem is that we see these crash and burn moments as normal. In fact, many of us wear our physical, mental and emotional rupture as a badge of honor.

The burnout approach to success is an epidemic. I have yet to meet an industry or profession that has fully risen above its grip. What’s more, it doesn’t work. According to the McKinsey 2015 Women in the Workplace study, over 70% of the women who “make it” to the C-Suite are NOT happy when they finally get there.

The truth glares at us in the mirror as we stare at ourselves with bags under our eyes. We have not figured this out.

[Related: 7 Effective Strategies to Prevent Leadership Burnout]

I believe that to truly lead like a woman means taking these costs seriously and taking a stand for something different.

Success at the expense of our health – body, mind and spirit – has led to depletion that wreaks havoc on our homes and destroys our capacity to authentically fight the good fight at work.

We are depleting ourselves. We are depleting our employees. We are depleting our planet. And we need to stop.

I wish I could claim to have all of the answers. What I do know is that a change will begin with ONE leader at a time.

What priorities would we change, if only we could trust that doing so “would work” for ourselves, our employees and the bottom line?

Here are a few places to start.

Start believing that in order to truly lead like a woman we must practice exquisite self-care. 

Put our own air masks on first before helping others. This is the ONLY way that those of us who DO hold the vision for a thriving future can ACTUALLY bring this vision forward.

Start using the greatest power we have as human beings — the power to insist on feeling good, right here and right now. 

I don’t mean chasing pleasure. But I DO mean using the cues from our bodies and our intuition to course-correct on a daily basis as needed. If something is off – in your emotional balance, in your household, or in the boardroom – take the risk to speak up, and to do the hard work to right it, rather than sweep it under the rug.

[Related: Overcoming Overwhelm in Your Life and Business]

Get a handle on your resentment and your resignation. 

As women, these emotions are literally eating us alive from the inside out. These feelings poison our bodies, destroy our health and damage our relationships with the people we love. Stop feeding these wolves. Instead dare to be the starting point of the change you wish to see.

Trust that you already know what needs doing. 

You carry the wisdom inside your body, heart and mind that has held the answer for generations. Take one step at a time in the direction of that knowing. Giving up the habit of self-betrayal in favor deeper trust. Be willing to risk losing, in favor of knowing you’ve done our absolute best ensure that your voice has been heard.

I believe that the time to begin is now. 

There has never been a riper movement. There has never been a greater need. Will you join me on this quest?


LeeAnn Mallorie, MAPP, MSC is a certified Executive Coach and the Founder of Leading in Motion, LLC. LeeAnn specializes in highlighting the critical intersection between personal well-being and effective leadership, especially for women. LeeAnn helps leaders tune into the wisdom of their own bodies, so that they and their organizations can thrive. In addition to coaching, she speaks and trains on leadership, resilience, embodiment and purpose. Visit to learn more about LeeAnn.

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