In a time when Hillary Clinton is running for President; Condoleeza Rice is the Secretary of State; Oprah Winfrey is a formative voice in social affairs; Stacy Snider is the chairman of Universal Pictures; and Joyce Meyer is a leading preacher of the gospel… women still seem to have a tough time finding their place at the leadership table. We continue to hear talk of the “glass ceiling“.
While there are plenty of advocates for women in leadership (e.g. Tom Peters; Free Methodist Church – see here) the struggle continues. (For a current illustration of what I mean see this story)
Right now I’m reading a great book on leadership by Frances Hesselbein – Hesselbein on Leadership.
Hesselbein is the former CEO of the Girls Scouts of America and the chairman and founding president of the Peter Drucker Foundation.
In a chapter entitled “Focus on the Task” I believe Hesselbein gets to the heart of the matter!
“For seven years I served on the board of a large electric utility with eleven directors who were men. I served as this company was building two nuclear power plants. There is nothing more macho than a nucleur power plant. Yet in all those meetings – ten times a year for seven years – I never walked into the board room thinking ‘I am a Woman.’ I participated because I had something to contribute beyond gender. I never thought of myself as the woman on the board (though indeed I was); rather, I knew I brought a special perspective to the deliberations and the decisions.” (Bold print = my emphasis)
(Me speaking here) There is something comfortable about a woman leader who is comfortable with who she is and what she brings to the table! Believe me women leaders – you bring more to the table than just your gender!
On the other hand, there is nothing more uncomfortable than a woman leader who is awkwardly aware of gender and is on a crusade to make everyone else aware too. To all women leaders who do this… STOP!
If the foremost thought on your mind at the leadership table is gender then you may as well excuse yourself and leave the responsibility of leadership to others who are focused on the task.
A couple of other worthwhile quotes from Hesselbein:
– “Focus on task, not on gender.”
– “For me management is like money – it has no gender.”
– “As we focus on task, we move beyond the old assumptions, practices, and language that
can be barriers to equal access. One barrier is placing women in a special category of
gender. If we see and describe ourselves as a ‘woman vice president,’ we may remain in
a category never to be considered for the chief executive position.”
I love what Hesselbein says! I weary quickly of any leader who has “something to prove” and particularly if it has to do with gender, race, or age.
Here’s the scoop… if God has gifted you with leadership abilities then take it seriously and lead (see Romans 12:8).
In time, regardless of gender, race, or age, if your leadership is authentic and results-oriented, people will see and acknowledge you as one gifted to lead.
In a world desperate for effective leadership I raise my glass to GREAT women leaders! Lead on and don’t apologize for who God has made you!