I Am Woman, Hear Me Lead

Written by on January 19, 2016

Is the coaching relationship different for women than it is for men? The short answer is: sometimes. While every coaching relationship is unique, there are some challenges that are more common among female leaders, although not exclusively so. Unfortunately it probably won’t come as a surprise to learn that often these concerns revolve around confidence.

Owning Your Place in the Boardroom

Of course, you don’t have to be a woman to struggle with confidence in the workplace. However, research and experience show that women have a greater tendency to struggle with finding their voice and feeling like they belong in the executive suite than their male counterparts – especially when surrounded by males who have a long history of leadership on their side. The good news is that more women are pursuing leadership roles and helping to pave the path for young female leaders, but the reality is, the battle for equality in the workplace is far from over.

The biggest challenge seems to be one of perception. After all, women are supposed to be nice. Women are supposed to be understanding and compassionate and soft. Women are supposed to be mothering. Unfortunately, none of those traits are compatible with the image of a strong leader. Sheryl Sandberg, Chief Operating Officer for Facebook, explores the barriers that women face in the workplace in her best-selling book “Lean In: Women, Work and the Will to Lead”. In her book she discusses how perception, both externally and internally, prevent women from reaching their leadership potential.

Define How You Want To Be Seen, Then Show Up

A good coach will help a female leader reflect on how she wants to be perceived and work to alter those perceptions if needed. A coach can help in the following ways:

  • Help uncover your core beliefs, values and drivers and understand that everything you have accomplished has happened because of those beliefs and values. It’s important that you see see how what you believe and support is working to fulfill a bigger set of goals.
  • Explore and take stock of your achievements – acknowledge, recognize and appreciate the value of your contributions. Learn to be proud of who you are and what you can do.
  • Create a shift in your thought process from inherently negative to positive. Look for the silver lining in any cloud that may be approaching on the horizon.
  • Actively solicit feedback from colleagues to provide concrete proof that you’re making a positive difference. Validation from a peer or manager can go along way in gaining a realistic sense of your contributions and overall impact on your organization.

While it can be tough for anyone to find their voice and feel like they’ve earned their place at the table, women tend to have a more difficult time with this – especially if they are leading a team of men. But whether you are male or female, coaching can help you realize that you have worked hard to get where you are and that your accomplishments matter. This sense of fulfilment and internal recognition can work wonders to make you the confident leader you’re meant to be.