Is this really who I was meant to be? As a woman in leadership, I often felt like things were just a bit off.
Despite decades of acting the way I thought I was supposed to act and doing all the things I thought I was supposed to be doing, it never felt quite right. I thought the thing that wasn’t quite right was me.
But I’ve come to realize that it wasn’t me. It was the leadership model I was trying to emulate.
I grew up with an old-school command and control, hierarchal, financially-driven model of leadership, where life was measured in key performance indicators. I tried to make that model my own, softening it, infusing empathy and bringing in beauty and other qualities to make my leadership more human and inviting.
When you’re working with a model that isn’t in tune with the true essence of who you are, softening the structure may lessen the pain of the moment, but it does not solve the larger problem. The larger problem for me was that my leadership template was based on a model designed by men, for men, and I am not a man.
I am a strong leader, a visionary leader in fact. It takes a lot for me to say that. As women we’re trained from birth that self-promotion is icky. We’re taught to hold back and lift up others. This is a false choice. It’s rooted in the traditional hierarchal leadership model that tells us that only one person stands at the top.
This model is not working any more. It’s certainly not working for women, and it’s not working very well for men either. There is another way. There is a more powerful model of leadership available, a model rooted in the deep truths of abundance, gratitude and vision. Make no mistake, this new model of leadership gets results in a traditional marketplace. In fact, it gets better results because it is more inclusive and holistic.
The new model differs from the old hierarchal model because it starts from within. It draws upon your vision, your heart, your creativity and your intuition, an intuition that may have been long suppressed because you were trying to morph yourself into something that you are not. It is your intuition that is telling you that the way you have been doing it is not working any more.
We’ve long been led to believe that if we worked hard enough and long enough, putting our nose to the grindstone and squelching our emotions, we would become successful. We were told to “Man up.” Many of us did so, in some cases for decades, assuming that if we finally became good enough, we would be rewarded with happiness and a greater sense of meaning and purpose.
In the end, the traditional model did not deliver on the promises that we expected.
The happiness, meaning and purpose we were hoping to find at work still eluded us, or they came in such small doses that we could never sink into them.
It doesn’t have to be this way. There is a growing chorus of leaders ushering us into the new model of work, where vision, creativity and even self care become important tools for driving results. In my work as an adviser to senior leaders around the world, people often confide in me. Through this, I’ve learned that all of us – women, men, young, old, people of every race and background – have one thing in common: We want our lives to matter.
You weren’t put on this Earth to play small. You have a bigger purpose here. We all do.
It’s time for you to start living it. Enjoy the ride.
– Lisa Earle McLeod is a leadership consultant and the author of several books. For more information on her company, visit McLeodandMore.com.