Are Women Ambivalent About Leadership? Part 1

Recently, I was sitting as an adviser with a group of young emerging women leaders who were planning a leadership event. Another adviser, a woman senior executive, leaned in and asked if they really seriously wanted to be leaders. Interesting!

Yesterday I read a statement attributed to Mellody Hobson, president of Ariel Investments and the current Chair of the Board of Directors of Dreamworks, which said “likability is what women loath to sacrifice – and – Leadership cannot be a popularity contest”. In other words, leadership is hard. Finding work/life balance might not be possible. Decisions might be unpopular. These young emerging women leaders wanted to make changes without changing themselves or stepping on toes, impossible. This is what the other adviser was really asking. Are you ready for leadership to be hard? Are you willing to be unpopular?

As a coach and mentor to busy career mother’s (my phrase) I see a great deal of ambivalence about assuming leadership roles and making the hard decisions. We know about the guilt every working mother has regarding being both a dedicated employee on a career track and an attentive mother. Yet we, as women, rarely talk about how much we want to be liked – to be popular. To make hard decisions might cause friction at home and peers or employees who complain or gossip about us. To make hard decisions might isolate us or yet add to our feelings of being overwhelmed. Leadership is not an easy choice.


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