- Posted by Janet Zaretsky
- On March 7, 2017
- 0 Comments
“I am so mad at myself” Susan shared with me after a contentious meeting with a board of directors she was part of where she had gotten upset and displayed her emotions. She went on to say that she was the only woman on the board and the men were all very serious. She thought that this display of emotion was going to impact her success negatively and wanted to work on controlling her emotions so she could perform more like the men. This is a common concern of women I coach-the concern that their natural expression of emotion is wrong and will interfere with their success. This is understandable, since their role models are primarily men who don’t display much emotion.
It is true that we, female leaders and business women, have been surrounded by more male role models than women. Men tend to not display emotion as readily as women (especially in a business setting), thus it is natural that we often think that is the ‘right way’ to be. Just like when we were growing up, we looked to our parents, trusted adults, and teachers for the ‘right way’ to think and act.
We need to alter that paradigm. Women being powerful and successful includes being fully who we are and that is likely to include expressing ourselves, sometimes emotionally. Studies show that women led companies, for example, are more successful overall. Women have been shown to possess more brain cells in the emotional realm then men and test higher in most competencies that are required for leadership. One of the most important skills of a good leader is empathy. Empathy as I am speaking about it in this context is being willing to really listen to others points of view and to see the other person’s point of view as valid. This allow them to put themselves in the other person’s shows and to see the world as they do.
When practiced by women in the workplace, this empathetic skillset is often at the source of a very successful business. Being empathetic as a leader allows for a co-creative process and often leads to developing great teams and leaders around you. Allowing others to feel heard, allowing them to contribute leaves them honored, appreciated and develops their own leadership. If you contrast that style of leadership to that of someone who does not empathize, who directs unemotionally, you can see the advantage. The leadership style of directing people is a style that worked for some people many years ago, and in today’s marketplace may be effective, only to a degree. What happens when people are ‘told’ what to do includes feeling diminished, not valued and often ends up in resentment and poor morale.
Stop trying to be like a man. Stop trying to not be you, fully. Here is the thing, the company hired you, as you are, not as you are trying to be. They wanted you, which includes that you are a woman who likely displays emotion. Allowing others to see your humanity allows them to embrace their own. You have great skill sets which often include empathy, compassion and passion. Express all of them. Be open. Be authentic. Be a great role model for all the female business women and leaders to follow.