Celebrating the New Breed of Leaders
A woman who doesn’t require validation is a force to be reckoned with. She doesn’t need you to agree with her, like her, or accept her. And, in my view, this makes her the most powerful species on the planet.
And here’s why.
For generations, women have been conditioned to believe that their sense of "worthiness" – that critical sense inside of all of us that gives us access to love, connection, and belonging – comes from outside sources. Women have been taught to believe that their worthiness is measured by the praise of the men who find them attractive, from the children they raise into decent human beings, from the boss who thinks they have done a good job, from friends who think they make the most marvelous lasagna, or from their own mothers who often project their dreams and aspirations and own sense of "worthiness" on their daughters. The list goes on and on.
It’s not a vicious cycle – it’s simply human nature to look around us and adapt to what we see, hear, and feel. Adaptation is, after all, the key to survival for many of the species on this planet. And this is simply what women have done: they have conformed to what they perceived was required in an effort to survive. But globally, in recent times, there’s been a shift, an understanding that’s growing amongst women: the realization that their sense of worthiness comes from nowhere else but within.
And women all around the world are accessing that power. Unfortunately, some are misunderstanding its potential.
We are more powerful together than apart.
Indra Nooyi, the CEO of PepsiCo, talks to us about the need for women to help women. She is outraged by how female senior executives and women in leadership behave towards one another.
In some corporations, there is a level of self-serving hostility amongst the women who have made it to the top – largely, in my belief, caused by the traditional corporate culture of greed, winning at all costs, politics, and the expectation of slavish hours with a single-minded focus. Those who want to make it to the top must sacrifice family, relationships, and a personal life, all for the sake of the corner office.
But in my experience (and I work with a LOT of women executives), eventually, at some point, the inner-voice of the female steps up, and says: "Wait, what?"
This can cause female execs to crash and burn. It can come in the form of panic attacks or depression. For others, it can be a pivotal mid-life assessment, a realization around the age of 40 that somewhere along the line their dreams of a fulfilling job in conjunction with a fulfilling personal life went haywire. For others, it's just a nagging internal wondering if indeed, all the sacrifices were worth it.
And the reason this so often happens to women is that all this relentless striving conflicts with their very basic, primal nature. Far from creating the sense of "worthiness" they were so desperate to achieve, it’s made them feel quite the opposite – empty, drained, and confused. Women are innately more collaborative than competitive – it’s all in our biology.
Feminism includes ALL genders.
The interesting thing is that in the wake of the original feminism movement, which created more opportunities and equalities for women, the new breed of female leaders has learned a thing or two from observing their fore-sisters. They’ve realized it’s not worth ignoring our feminine uniqueness or trying to bend it out of shape to fit in.
These leaders are embracing their womanhood, rather than trying to compromise it or squash it, and while it has taken some time, the corporate world is starting to take note.
Undoubtedly there is still a long way to go, but the end result is a business world that is becoming more balanced by creating more flexible opportunities for women, realizing the inherent differences in the way women think and operate, and encouraging diversity. This is beneficial for everyone.
To thine own self be true.
This new breed of leaders realizes, too, that their worthiness is not an ego-trip. An ego-trip is a fickle thing that’s reliant on circumstances that come and go. These women understand that their worthiness is something far more solid, genuine, and authentic – it’s their personal brand, their own understanding of their uniqueness, and a confidence to bring it to the table.
These women are not looking to the traditional measures of worthiness for validation (including their own ridiculous expectations of themselves). They are doing something far more productive: They’re "leaning-in" and working together.
Open your heart and mind to your own worthiness.
None of us are perfect, nor do we have to pretend to be – all we need to do is show up as the best version of ourselves. And that means knowing our talents, skills, and "worthiness," as well as our own shortcomings. In understanding ourselves – our strengths and our opportunities – we can ask for help, we can rely on the expertise and experience of others to complement our own, and we can share the load without feeling guilty or "unworthy."
These women have realized that creating fulfilled lives – made up with a balanced lifestyle of work and play and dispersed with a myriad of interests – makes them healthier, happier, and more able to give of their time and energy.
These women have let go of the old stereotype and are creating something new for women everywhere to not aspire to but relate to (we are each different and should relish putting our own "stamp" on our careers, rather than simply copying others). They’ve let go of what they believe their lives should look like and are celebrating it for everything that it is.
But getting there is not as easy as flicking a switch. Self-acceptance takes time. We are all guilty of falling into our old stories of not being good enough. We all trap ourselves with the old internal rhetoric associated with past failures.
Once you can accept your limits, you go beyond them.
On the way to accepting our own worthiness, we need to find a truth and a fondness in these old stories, as well as our scars and battle wounds, because they make us who we are. Combined, they are all the things that make us whole.
We also need to realize these lessons, because wisdom is the prize for living and learning along the way. Only then can we truly find self-respect and a full sense of worthiness.
When you experience "worthiness," you create magic moments. You act from a place of love rather than fear. You stop making judgements on yourself and others. You have more clarity, less indecision, less times feeling overburdened and overwhelmed...all because you know that your sense of worthiness is not diminished by saying "no" sometimes, asking for help when you need it, or making choices that you don’t need to justify to anyone but yourself. This kind of worthiness is true empowerment.
We are all born with a need to belong, to be accepted, and to be loved. But to access this in greater measure, we must first give these things to ourselves.
Catherine Plano works one-on-one with women to help them reconnect with themselves. In 2012, she launched the I AM WOMAN Project, which is now a global weekly podcast where women from all over the world share their stories.
Have more questions? Follow up with the expert herself.
Executive Mindset Coach, Transformational Leadership Facilitator, Leadership and Culture Consultant
Catherine is known in her community as an innovative leader and creative entrepreneur who specialises in helping people achieve their goals and dreams. She is passionate about assisting others to reach their highest ambitions and live a life that is fulfilling and rich. She is a strong advocate and a leader by nature. Catherine thinks BIG, encourages possibilities, and honors individual wisdom and strengths, and is valued for helping leaders build stronger and more effective... Continue Reading
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