Leadership Lessons for Our Daughters

Leadership Lessons for Our Daughters

July 31, 2016

My eyes are still a little bleary because I stayed up late last week watching Hillary Clinton accept the Democratic Party’s nomination for President of the United States.  Regardless of what side of the aisle you’re on, my hope is that the significance of this moment was not missed, particularly among the young women who will become our future leaders someday.  While no one should be selected as a leader solely based on gender, Hillary Clinton’s candidacy provides some undeniably important leadership lessons that are worth noting for our daughters:

  • You can be strong and feminine. The traditional image of a leader is to be tough, assertive, and not back down.  However, when it comes to women, these adjectives are often seen as negatives.  The conventional view of women is to be softer, more nurturing, and typically to play a supportive role.  While there certainly has been progress, double standards still exist. If a man shouts, it’s bold and charismatic; when a woman shouts, it’s often perceived as shrill and strident. And women are judged much more harshly when it comes to appearance.  However, women don’t have to lead in the image of men; they can demonstrate their power by being both steadfast and caring, both persuasive and cooperative, both resolute and compassionate.  The ability to listen, empathize, and work collaboratively are strengths that you as a leader can provide.
  • You don’t have to be perfect. Women tend to doubt their own competence even when they are more experienced and knowledgeable than their male counterparts. Much has been written about this lack of self-confidence and women’s imposter syndrome.  As you grow, you will begin to understand that leaders don’t have to have all the answers as long as they surround themselves with smart people and believe in their own problem-solving ability. Of course, we all make mistakes.  The key is to learn from them and keep moving on.  Don’t let failures or past errors in judgment undermine your confidence and hold you back.    Understand why the mistakes occurred and learn from the experience.
  • You must persevere to succeed. Others may tell you that you’re not ready for the next level, or give you feedback about many of your shortcomings. They may even demonize you.  So, listen to the feedback, accept what fits, but don’t become a victim. Remember Eleanor Roosevelt’s quote, “No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.”  Find ways to grow, build on your strengths, and figure out how to compensate for your weaknesses.  And don’t be afraid to ask for help; no one can succeed alone.  You’ll need a few sponsors along the way who can be a vocal advocate for you, just like Barack Obama is for Hillary Clinton.  So be resourceful; there are others that would be happy to support you if you have supported them.
  • You can operate from a position of hope and optimism, not fear or resentment. It’s easy to get cynical when you see others getting promotions or receiving more favorable treatment.   Talking negatively about others or showing anger about someone’s success reflects poorly on you and ultimately hinders your image as a leader.  Sure it’s tempting to grumble and wonder aloud how someone else could possibly be seen favorably or why the boss doesn’t recognize your hard work.  It’s better to make the case for your own leadership and bring to light your own optimism for the future.  As Michelle Obama said so simply, “When others go low, we go high.”

This presidential election brings a stark contrast of leadership styles.  No matter where you stand, I hope the young women—and men—in the country appreciate the significance of the first woman to be nominated for President and recognize some of the important leadership lessons for all of us.

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