7 Ways Women Damage Their Leadership

Margaret —  November 12, 2012 — 25 Comments

7 Ways Women Damage Their Leadership

Over the years I have met many fantastic women leaders. I lean forward to hear their every word and am always grateful to spend a spare hour with them over a cup of coffee or on a walk. I have also met some not-so-great women leaders. I try not to wince as their shrill voice cuts across an audience and am a little relieved when I can escape. How can you ensure you fall into the first category and not the second?

Watch out for these seven ways you can damage your leadership as a woman:

1. Allow “It’s because I’m a woman!“ to slip into your vocabulary. [Tweet this] The subtle thinking can slip into our lives when we’re not paying attention. Any criticism is perceived as discrimination due to gender. Take out the gender wild card by asking yourself how you can be a more effective leader. How can I be a better communicator with others? Is there training I need to pursue through book, blogs, or events that can help me grow? When you’re a great leader, gender has a tendency to fall to the wayside.

2. Be unaware of your Biology. [Tweet this] As women, we need to acknowledge our bodies are different than men’s. We need to face simple biological realities such as our monthly hormone fluxes, even post-menopausal states. Sometimes our hormones and biology present some minor obstacles we climb over. Set aside some time to see if you are aware and taking care of your body properly to make sure your biology doesn’t get the best of you.

3. Let your momma bear instincts maul others. [Tweet this] For many women, we have a very deep sense of injustice. This is a beautiful God-given gift used to meet the needs of many around us. However, sometimes we need to place healthy boundaries around this gift so we don’t end up hurting those we long to help.  When you feel momma bear rising up, don’t react to the injustice you are seeing, but respond out of wisdom, grace, and love. You are not denying the need nor are you squelching your feelings, but you are placing healthy parameters around your God-given gift.

4. Permit emotions to take over your leadership. [Tweet this] Some women and men feel emotions on a deeper and stronger level. The trick to feeling emotions to this proportion is to feel them without letting them hijack your leadership. Oftentimes, women in ministry will receive a bad reputation from others in the past who have let their emotions take over. We need to acknowledge our emotions while continuing to walk in winsome ways.

5. Give up being a woman. [Tweet this] To be a great woman leader doesn’t mean you have to suppress your gender. As an alternative, highlight your gender by accentuating the best aspects of who God created you to be. God created women with special sensibilities, sensitivities, and distinct views you bring to the table. Celebrate these facets of your womanhood. On the other hand, as women we can become shrill and our tones can have an edge. Instead of drawing those we lead closer, a sharp tone cuts while pushing them away.

6. Be overly relationship driven. [Tweet this] I was recently part of a church where several women were leading a production meeting. They took the first 20 minutes to connect relationally with other fellow leaders. The next 20 minutes were spent talking about others in the church who were or were not relationally connected. By the time the women leaders were finished, half of our allotted time was already spent. While being tuned into the relationship thermostat is an awesome skill, over sensitivity to the point of never being productive is a problem for a leader. This may call for some rearranging and fancy footwork until you find a system that works best for you. Can you set longer times for production meetings? Can you save networking until the end of the day?

7. Try to become superwoman. [Tweet this] Sometimes as a leader, regardless of gender, we try to do too much. This is particularly true when we find ourselves delegating assignments and then taking them back as we find they would’ve turned out better if we did them ourselves.  After holding onto responsibilities for so long, we find our fingers have forgotten how to let go. Walk alongside the delegatee to as you watch God develop the gifts he gave them. At times, he may choose to use failure as a maturing agent.  As you entrust projects to others, trust God with the rest.

What women in your life encouraged you to be a better leader?

25 responses to 7 Ways Women Damage Their Leadership

  1. Her name is Margaret. Margaret Feinberg. She shares posts such as this and writes books that speak to my soul. She attends conferences and special events sharing her wisdom and personal reflections. She reminds me that I am a Piaget in a world full of sheep and, when I am lost or on the wrong track, God is my Great Shepherd and I am his beloved child. She also reminds me to set healthy boundaries, personally, professionally and spiritually.

    Margaret’s the bee’s knees and I tell her this often.

    Hugs, my friend. =)

  2. Yikes– I find myself guilty of several of these. Thanks for keeping me in check!

  3. Thanks for this Margaret, some wise words here to ponder. I think I’ve learned the most from women who aren’t good leaders through reverse mentoring. I just had this conversation with my daughter last night while we were watching something on television that launched us into the realities of women in authority, how many don’t handle it well.

  4. It’s funny that sometimes it can be a bit of a double bind — I’m thinking here mostly of #6 (being overly relationally driven). When a particular woman is wired to be less relational she’s seen as being unfeeling or insensitive (or another word I won’t use). I know that double bind can apply to men as well! Helped list to review every now and then. Thanks.

  5. I love number five, Margaret. I find it so prevalent amongst the upcoming generation of women, mine included. As women we have so many marvelous characteristics that actually propel our ability as leaders. If only we could embrace that more, we would see how boldly God can use woman as vessels of leadership more often.

  6. Wow! Margaret, this is really great stuff. I know I’m a guy, but I am really struck by the level of self-awareness reflected in these principles. I am making it recommended reading for the women (and men) in our programs. Thank you!

  7. Wonderful words of wisdom! Lately I have seen otherwise peaceful and patient women damage relationships with #3 Momma Bear reactions (including myself).

  8. #7 has an ambiguous cause, I think. I KNOW I’m not Super Woman, but so many people from the different leadership roles I am in want so much from me. Wife, mom, worship leader, artist, neighbor, gallery member…. (to name only the major roles) all carry hefty responsibilities. (And at this point in my life I’m not able to step back from any of them.) The people over, and under me, in these areas think I have oodles of time and can drop whatever I have going at the moment (probably eating bon bons while soaking in the tub) to meet their need.

    I know I’m not Super Woman. My toughest leadership/time management issue is making sure people know they are important to me while at the same time not letting them commandeer my hour, day, or schedule. I know there are men who also struggle with this, but in my circle, women struggle with this to a much greater degree.

    • Catherine, ” My toughest leadership/time management issue is making sure people know they are important to me while at the same time not letting them commandeer my hour, day, or schedule.” –this is such a hard balance and very hard to do!

  9. daynawrites.blogspot.com November 13, 2012 at 1:30 pm

    These are some of the best insights I’ve read into Women Leading. Well done. I agree, so much time is sometimes spent on “relationship building” within a formal setting, where there is a task at hand. I find men-led (although I hear what you’re saying about not focusing on genders) sessions see the value in getting down to business and recognize the community that is built up naturally as a part of being “at something” together, rather than prematurely “diving into each others’ lives”. Leave the networking until afterwards. Separate work and relationship and allow for the natural crossovers between the two to develop.

    And thanks for the reminder to not apologize for who we are, how we’re made or for the intensity of our emotions. I totally agree, emotions are a healthy part of our make up. We are not machines. We are humanity. And the space we live in is large. There’s room for everyone.

    Love it! Thanks – daynawrites.blogspot.com

  10. I am learning to delegate more, prioritize more and be less superwomanish. I can build people up this way.

    Ironically in my job in architecture I deal mostly with men because of the trades. I decided not to pretend I am a man because clearly they know I’m not. Instead I just try to be professional, and handle things with wisdom and grace.

    • Heather, Handling things in a professional, wise, and grace-filled manner is one of the best things you can do. Wow–an architect! You probably love your job!

  11. Jennifer Callaway December 17, 2012 at 7:58 pm

    These are all excellent points, and so true. But there is one I have seen more than once, and it is just as prevalent among men as women. That is a lack of integrity. It doesn’t even have to be over major issues, but the moment a leader begins to lose trust through even something so seemingly minor as exaggerating the details of a story to make it better, those who know the truth begin to doubt. And once doubt sets in, it becomes difficult to trust. I personally experienced this with a mentor of mine, and it affected all areas of our relationship. And ultimately I discovered that those little exaggerations were one manifestation of a major character flaw. It was heartbreaking, but a lesson I hope to have learned well.

  12. Wow, the momma bear rising up really hit home. I have definitely been a momma bear protecting the innocent being treated unfairly. In fact, one time I did this, the parents did not talk to me for 2 years. I thought I was just protecting the child, and I tried to use my words carefully, but still they did damage. I really don’t know if my speaking up helped the child or not? I just know I felt compelled to say something. I can see that a momma bear rising up, could be very scary for the person on the receiving end. Thanks for helping me see this from the other person’s point of view.

Trackbacks and Pingbacks:

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