Developing Your Leadership Style
LCU PROFESSOR & PHD
I am a Christ follower who is a wife to Steve and mom to Calley and Maddy. I am an entrepreneur who wears hats in higher education, wellness programs, public speaking, life coaching, business consulting, and non profit service.
First of all, tell us a bit about how you developed a passion for women in leadership roles.
Honestly early in my career I worked mostly with men and did not have a passion for women in leadership - then over time God blessed me with the realization I was really missing out on those relationships and possible professional collaborations - not to mention friendships. I wondered if there might be other professional women like me who didn't have those relationships with other women. This began my journey of exploring what it might look like to connect with other professional women, even more specifically Christian professional women, and help them connect with each other. I have been on this intentional journey for about 10 years.
Some of the highlights are working with graduate students getting their degree in leadership, women in leadership year long programs and events, an endowed women in leadership scholarship at our university for student leaders, the Courageous Women if Faith book series, marketplace ministry trip to China, supporting my female colleagues in founding non-profits, etc.
As a leadership coach, what is the biggest contributor you see that holds women back from being effective leaders?
A common theme I often see is the desire to be the mom and wife you want to be, yet also go after those exciting leadership roles/challenges professionally. Figuring out the 'both - and' options. How can I bring all of my leadership abilities fully to work when also juggling my responsibilities at home.
Another very common theme is the reality women must have a heightened emotional intelligence awareness in their communication and work style. The research shows we are experiencing a second generation type bias related to gender issues in workplace. Women still are considered harsh, hard to work with, power hungry, not a team player for behaviors that are considered good leadership qualities in men. There is an extra level of effort women must use to navigate the professional landscape in a wise, emotionally intelligent way.
In developing your leadership style, did you ever feel discriminated against? What advice would you have for someone going through something similar?
I did not feel maliciously discriminated against. Yet I did often feel at times I would bring up an issue, question, offer strategy and felt I was in a way blown off or patted on the head to try to placate me or not have to directly answer my question.
Some of this was at work yet perhaps even more pronounced at times while serving on some past boards. It is a difficult thing. You have to really think through what is important to you and which battles are worth fighting. Be very wise regarding your circle of influence vs circle of concern. I learned this principle from Stephen Covey.
There are things that concern you that you have no control over - yet other things you can influence. Focus on the things you can control/influence vs getting pulled into things you can't. It is not easy to do this. Yet by doing this, your circle of influence most likely will grow and in some cases the discrimination diminishes. And you are investing your focus and energy in things that will give you a good return. You also get really creative in problem solving.
I had a leader I worked for that at times felt like did not seem to go for my ideas or strategies so I learned to work through another colleague to present the ideas and often they would get accepted. In this scenario I don't think it was a male / female discrimination type dynamic. It was more of a work style/communication dynamic. I have done some work & research in how our brains are wired to do work; I have given an assessment to clients and students that measures this.
One key component is how your brain is wired to solve problems. The assessment takes into account personality, time frame reference, idea generation, how you process information (externally or internally), your preferred learning style, etc. Sometimes styles or brain wiring are so vastly different between two people it is difficult to work together, or it will feel heavy and hard because you have to put forth much more effort than if someone had similar wiring to you. It is still important to challenge yourself at times to work with people with different styles and brain wiring because you will be stretched to see things in a new way, perhaps even in a better way. Be aware of ways you may be assuming it is a discrimination thing when in reality it may simply be that you are wired differently and the other person just can't seem to see what you see from your perspective because they have a different way of coming at a project or problem.
Another piece of the puzzle I see in layers of possible discrimination, especially the second generation bias, comes from women working against other women. It is such a crazy dynamic to watch women compete with each other vs. complete each other. This not only happens in the workplace, but socially as well at times. It can be maliciously intentional, or it can be subconscious, based on the culture or environment they are in.
For example, there is an assumption I have run into where it was said 'don't get too many women on a board of directors because it would lead to drama and work would not get done.' I was stunned, yet it was brought up by a woman. Now this particular woman worked in an environment where she saw this. And it definitely can happen with some people. Yet I was a bit surprised that it was an assumption for people we were considering for high level board service who were professional, mature, accomplished individuals. There was no harmful intent toward any individual, just an overall assumption. It was very interesting to watch how that unfolded.
You have two wonderful girls. What has it looked like to raise them to be strong leaders?
Steve and I pray a lot! For their faith, character, wisdom, friends, opportunities. Then another thing I try to do (not perfect for sure) is listen and ask questions. They might ask my opinion and I might share some, yet I try to ask what they think about it. I can remember a time I distinctly decided to let Calley handle a tricky situation with a teacher on her own; she was 16 and I let her know this was her challenge to face.
We talked a while about options, different scenarios that might play out, yet I was not going with her to the conversation. Man was that hard. Every part of my being wanted to ride in and fight, rescue, solve. Yet thankfully I had my own executive coach at the time who reminded me of a Jim Rohn quote 'stay in touch yet not always within reach'. I was learning that allowing your kids, team members, or students to struggle some is actually a good thing. At times I was too quick to offer help and serve. I had the potential to enable others to be weak if I never allowed them to grow by struggling a bit to work through something.
I also have gotten more comfortable sharing stories with them about times I made mistakes and some of the consequences that came. They see me make mistakes and know I try to apologize quickly to work through conflict in healthy ways. We don't do passive aggressive in our family. We work to get things out in the open and we love each other fiercely. My mom gave me some cool opportunities to travel with her on trips with her students. It has been fun to do the same with my daughters: to open up their world a bit.
A fun memory: when they were in elementary/jr high and we might be flying somewhere I asked them to figure out where we were supposed to go by reading signs, looking at the arrivals/departures board. I told them they were leading us to the plane. Just a small thing yet it was fun and gave them confidence in a strange place to figure out how to navigate a situation.
If you could travel anywhere in the world right now, where would you go and why?
I have not been to Africa. I have a friend who has poured into a non-profit there for years and has taken professional women who she has mentored over the years to volunteer there. I am intrigued by her passion and the ways God is using her in that ministry while she also serves as a key executive at a highly successful corporation. I want her to take me and my daughters with her next time she goes (Steve can come too :)).