If you are a leading lady, by which I mean a woman in any position of leadership, you are sitting at the table and this is for you. This piece is also for you if you are a lady aspiring towards any form of leadership or you are a man with women in your life. In fact, this piece is for everyone. If you never get to personally use this information, you get to help someone with it someday.
If you are not familiar with the expression “sit/sitting at the table”, it refers to women occupying leadership positions and in capacities where decisions are discussed, influenced and made. Originally, this expression was coined after women leading in the corporate world and sitting at boardroom tables but in my opinion and by experience, every table is a table! By this I mean, even if it’s a leadership role in the community, on campus, in your classroom, in church, or wherever, that’s your table and how you sit at that table matters a lot. Thank God for all the intellectual and practical contributions towards the significant demasculinization of leadership and the women who have shattered glass ceilings and walls to give the female a voice in the corridors of power.
Now that you are sitting at the table, here are the 7 rules of your leadership engagement
#Rule 1- SIT COMFORTABLY.
You’re probably feeling “grateful” and indebted to someone or to sheer luck for the opportunity to lead, don’t! You’re at that table because you qualify to be there, PERIOD! Even if you think that leadership placement is a gesture that you don’t deserve, now is not the time to query it. And please, expect people to doubt your competence and even query how you got here. Expect them to attribute it to something or someone else but your sheer competence. Expect them to say things like “she wouldn’t if not for…” Expect them to give the credit to your relationships, lobbying, “bottom power”, lack of other options or anything else. Sadly, also expect many of “them” to be women like you. Have all these expectations but make them none of your business. Please, what people think about you is their thought, don’t make it yours.
To sit comfortably at the table, you must undo that socialization that makes you care too much about public opinion and that inordinate desire to be liked. Please, prepare to be disliked. As a woman in leadership, you will discover that your likeability has more to do with unrelated ridiculous standards than your effectiveness in leadership. For example, in some cases, expect people to like you less if you are not married or if your children are in boarding school or you don’t have children.
Also, prepare to be misunderstood. Prepare for people who will label your assertiveness as aggression or your boldness as rudeness or your critical opinions as rebellion. People will call you bossy even when you’re clearly not. If you were a man, it wouldn’t matter much but as a woman in leadership, expect to be misunderstood.
Nevertheless, know that you’re here now so sit comfortably. You are a legitimate part of the decision making team and you can’t function effectively if you’re distracted by opinions on the genuineness of your sit. Girl, you’re at the table and the chair is yours. Please, sit comfortably.
In other words- Simply fix your focus on embracing the responsibilities and enjoying the privileges of leadership.
#Rule 2- BE YOURSELF.
Please be yourself. You’re probably surrounded by a high volume of testosterone that if you’re not careful, you’ll begin to adhere to the male pattern of leadership as a standard. Know that leadership has no gender so don’t lose yourself in the effort to fit in. All you really need to do is to be a leader, not any version of it.
Except there is an order against such, which you can repeal anyway, dress like yourself. Talk like yourself. Don’t hide your femininity. Don’t subscribe to the erroneous portrayals that dissociate femininity from effective leadership. If you must wear a suit, except otherwise stated, wear a bright colored suit- if you want to. Dressing in an all pink outfit does not reduce the level of your intelligence. If you like pink, please wear pink as much as you want. Wear heels if you want. And if you don’t want to, wear whatever you are comfortable in. Just be yourself. Understand what skills you need for that position and develop them without losing yourself.
One more thing, see yourself as a leader. Period. You are not a “female leader”. Yes you are female. But here, at the table, you are a leader. To say that you are a “female leader” is to deemphasise the appropriateness of your leadership and project leadership as a masculine endeavor that you’ve simply strayed into. There are no male or female leaders, only leaders. So, be one.
In other words- Be yourself- a competently leading version of you.
#Rule 3- DO MORE.
The world can be a ridiculous place. Having a penis makes life much easier especially at the table because society simply assumes you’re competent even when you’re as dull as a dry stick. Well, it is our current reality and while we work at changing that please, put in your double effort. You have to prove yourself by outsmarting your critics. Over prepare for meetings. Over achieve tasks. To get the basic approval, you may need to do beyond the required. And please, when you do, don’t expect your extra efforts to be noticed or celebrated. It’s not okay but it is what it is and if you keep at it, it will eventually be noticed and celebrated. Please, embrace the challenge to prove yourself not because you need the reassurance but because “they” need it. Double your efforts and make sure that every time you open your mouth, a fountain of insight is released.
In other words- Simply do more!
Making notes? I’d love to hear your thoughts! I didn’t want this post to be too long so I continued here! Go on and read it and don’t forget to engage me in the comment section.
Stretch & Thrive!