What would you do if you weren’t afraid?
This is the question that I love most about what Sheryl talks about in her book Lean In: Women, Work and the Will to Lead. It’s bold, to the point and gets you thinking. A brilliant coaching question which bypasses the bits of your brain which say “I can’t” or “I don’t know”. It’s was the very question I asked myself…and as a result… Your Time To Grow was conceived.
Leadership Ambition Gap
In the book, Sheryl uses this question to help us understand the leadership ambition gap and the double standards which occur around ambition with regards to men and women in leadership and how each is perceived. Just the other day I was chatting with a mum (let’s call her Jane) who is ambitious, capable and well respected in her field and yet she is stuck in a role which won’t allow her to progress because of internal politics. Jane was so frustrated that eventually she has left the role and gone on to pastures new where she is able to use her talents and step up. Jane was able to ‘lean in’ and see that her talent was not being recognised to go and find a role which would challenge her and progress her career in the direction she wanted; she didn’t settle.
Are you holding yourself back?
One of the reasons I love my job is that I see the potential that so many female leaders have, the ambitions which drive them and the fear which holds them back. It’s important to recognise that not everyone wants to be a CEO and that for some their ambition is something closer to home, perhaps being at home for the kids. I am not here to judge you and your life choices and encourage you to do something you don’t want; nope, my role is to encourage you to reach your own goals and to help remove the fear which holds you back. From imposter syndrome to trying to do it all we all have something stopping us progressing; admitting that something needs to change is the first step, then you can create a plan.
There is a strong focus on women as it is women who are more likely to hold themselves back but it’s also true for men; it’s not a dichotomy and it is this kind of thinking which leads us to learned helplessness: where we believe we have no control and so stop trying.
When I came across the concept of Lean In it made sense to me; I could see that I was holding myself back due to beliefs I held about career progression and how we juggle parenthood and our career desires. It is, however, one option and not one everyone agrees with and I think that is a good thing.
Let’s start a conversation
We all need to be talking about women in leadership, questioning and challenging the status quo because if we don’t we will continue to lose amazing women from leadership roles and we will stop others from trying to attain leadership roles as they believe they can’t be successful – and that’s not good for anyone.