As lady bosses, we sometimes find ourselves struggling trying to fit our voluptuous brains into a rigid, traditional business model that was never designed by or for women to begin with. My answer to this?
Reject the model.
Create a new one, one that honors that future-driven brain of ours.
Recently, I read a post in a forum I belong to for working mothers. It was written by a woman who heads a department at a large firm.
She introduced herself as a leader and a mother, and stated that she has someone on her team with a baby who works from home if the baby is ill, and then wrote:
"...and we know how much work gets done when a mother works from home."
She then went on to state that she likes to be fair, but she is performance driven. What should she do?
Firstly, this is a common struggle and I applaud that she took the initiative to speak up about it and ask other working mothers about how to solve the issue.
That willingness to collaborate, to admit we do not know the answers, to look for the answers amongst each other, is a beautiful sign of female leadership.
"As mothers ourselves, we all know that the newborn situation is temporary. Yet we are quick to adopt the viewpoint that devalues our potential when we become mothers."
Why do we do this?
Because we carry those limiting beliefs about ourselves, beliefs which come from a history of devaluing messages aimed at women and mothers.
It is a coping mechanism, the result of trying to play the Old Boy's Club game to get ahead, but being scared to reject that message when we reach a leadership position.
"As a leader and a mother..." The answer lies right there.
"A mother is a leader by nature and by situation. I like to say becoming a mother is the quickest way to sharpen those leadership skills. An MBA has nothing on us."
Time management. Crisis management. People management. Project management. Profit management. Delegation. Prioritizing. Lasering.
These are skills that mothers suddenly find themselves adopting in lightening speed in order to achieve the greatest goal: nurturing growth. Your growth, your baby's growth, your family's growth. And yes, even your company's growth.
"Mothers are pre-wired to be leaders. The only thing that is stopping us
is buying into our collective devaluation."
So what do we do when we have achieved a leadership position and find ourselves leading females who have become mothers? (And might I add, men who have become hands-on fathers.)
We step up and become the feminine leaders we are called to be. Because in doing so, we command our collective value.
Here are the real qualities of a strong, feminine, lady-boss leader:
- Long-term vision. That includes the vision of creating a business model we can all embrace and enjoying the benefits of a feminine energy so tangibly lacking in the current model.
- Be the woman you are. Your ambitious mind may be wrapped in a suit, but your soul has other ideas. Listen to it. You can do it all in bright lipstick, flowy scarves or yoga pants if you want. Just do it as you.
- A feminine leader is a game changer. She realises that the current business model was never built for or by women to begin with and is willing to reinvent the business model to include what women bring to the table in all of their life cycles.
- Embrace your long-term visionary. Studies show that women leaders tend to be less impulsive, have long-term vision and enjoy more sustainability. When it comes to our new-mum employees, it is our duty as leaders to tap into that visionary, to ask ourselves to honor the potential these women bring to the table not only now, but above all in the future. And invest in that future. Not just the right-now bottom line.
- Reject our devaluation - and raise our value. A lady boss rejects the stereotypes - and above all the devaluation - of mothers. Focus on the immense value that mothers bring and can bring.
- Ride out the temporary. A feminine leader understands that a mother's need to be with her sick child is temporary and is willing to ride it out.
- See the difference between perfectionism, time and productivity. Scoff at the notion that a mother "does not do any work when at home" - and embrace that it is not the length of time she works, but precisely what she creates and delivers that is important. Acknowledge that the spurts of work a mother does in between caring for her sick baby, changing diapers, pumping, or rocking it to sleep, are often super lasered and on point simply because she has no other choice.
- Value the lasered "motherload" skillset. A feminine leader realises that it is the decisiveness, focus and sharpness of the work a mother produces while working from home are extremely valuable. Let her master this art. It has nothing to do with how long she is sitting at her desk. Even when she is holding, nursing or caring for baby, she is still thinking and forming her ideas for her work so she can eventually sit down and bring those ideas to life.
- Let other mothers inspire you to get even more lasered yourself. Team up with this new mother to prioritise her temporary workflow, remove the small things that take this mother away from her core work - unnecessary meetings or emails, tasks without priority, etc - and help her delegate it for the time being. You are a leader. Show her what this is all about and be open to learning from her.
- Aim for win-win. Go for what is sustainable for long term achievement and not just an immediate bottom line. Ideas could be anything from suggesting or even contributing to child care for even a few hours a day when Mom is home with a sick baby, allowing a mother to bring her child into work, allowing a mother to shift her work into the evenings, allowing a mother to possibly do a work share for a period of time. Make a promise to bring her back when she is ready to reward her for being a pro-active part of the solution.
When you act like a real lady boss to your mother employees, you become a real leader.
You earn loyalty. You inspire. You motivate.
You build a team of people who admire and look up to you, trust you, are very dedicated and who have a cumulated desire to really do the company right.
You have worked hard to be a leader and a mother. There is a reason you are now here in this role.
To be a game changer.
To raise the value of women in the workforce based on what they offer as women. To inspire men to do the same. To inspire that feminine energy in them as well.
If you do that, you will not only be a leader of business, but also of a new economy.
Sara Bobkoff, www.LittleBigMouth.net, is a voice & message mentor and story transformation coach for sensitive, high-achieving women who have had enough glass ceilings and are done with Alpha Male business models. Ready to write your own success story? Contact her for a free half-hour call to see how we can get you doing just that.