Leadership Within. Developing Leadership within yourself means you'll never go without in Motherhood
Whether it’s raising our children, operating in the organizations we serve, contributing to a project in a team context, or running a small business, we’re all leading. A leader’s style not only creates results and successes but is also created by the micro responses to the challenges and circumstances she encounters while leading. Women leaders especially feel the tugging of our competing leadership roles. Many of us are mothers or caregivers. If we’re not responsible for other humans biologically or as legal guardians, we may land these responsibilities by way of the professional roles we occupy. When the stakes are high and the stakeholders are relying on results, the range of roles and responsibilities can seem at once exhilarating and burdensome.
A leader in the throes of competing commitments may be stretched too thin to effectively walk her own talk, but if she doesn’t, she will likely experience setbacks, delays, and other challenges. These challenges may render her leadership less potent if she is concerned more with optics than with embodying a mission and vision, and thus, lose the opportunity to model authenticity for her team. This misalignment may result in partial buy-in from stakeholders, complicated policies, contradictory expectations, and high-stress environments.
With a willingness to focus on the coherence of her thoughts, words, and actions, a leader can experience more of her personal power, more ease in achieving goals, and greater fulfillment in relationships while she also models this for her teams.
The first step to leadership realignment is to identify which of the three distinct aspects of your personal leadership listed below you least honor, as this will be the culprit for your life lacking cohesion as well as the portal through which to create more impactful and sustained successes.
Inner Voice: Thoughts and Beliefs
Your Inner Voice is the running commentary about your life and work. This voice constantly measures the gap between your intention and your results, and tends to compare, judge, and assess your success while simultaneously collecting evidence of lack or inefficiency, negative feeling, or unmet needs. This voice is relentless, and when left unexamined, can be rife with criticism, unchecked assumptions, cultural biases, fear, and ego.
When a leader’s command of this personal domain is underdeveloped she may find herself agreeing to or engaging in activities she doesn’t actually enjoy. She may feel like she’s going through the motions of life but that she’s the sight of the greater purpose behind it all.
If this is you, you may have spent a long time not trusting yourself and your intuition and be more practiced at second-guessing yourself than you are at following the voice screaming “No, I want something different!” Maybe you’ve gone along with the requests and ideas of a supervisor, spouse, or friend and whereas at first, it was convenient, in doing so you’ve lost your own vision and voice.
This gives the experience of purposelessness and not trusting yourself. This can also plant a seed of doubt in your leadership credibility among team members who may sense, but not be able to articulate what exactly isn’t inspiring them to action.
Outer Voice: The expression of your thoughts and beliefs
The Outer Voice is your words. The way you express your internal thoughts and beliefs may be a carbon copy of the voice in your mind, or you may adapt them to appear a certain way by the outside world or to meet some external expectation or cultural norm.
When the expression of your authentic voice wavers between truths, a leader may find herself perpetually in opposition to or at odds with the people in her life and her relationships may seem complicated to manage.
If this is you, you may think it’s better to tell people what they want to hear to get them off your back or avoid confrontation, Perhaps you do so, knowing you believe something else and so you placate your counterparts and colleagues and take action on your own thoughts and beliefs behind their backs.
You may live one truth at home (“My job is so demanding!”) and another at work (“My family is so needy!”) or you may align with the belief that “if you want something done right, you must do it yourself.” You have likely heard yourself say “better to ask forgiveness than permission.”
This gives the experience of feeling productive and in control in the short term, but also one of being alone, being “better than” or “less than”, and not in authentic communication or relationship. This leader’s teammates may find themselves completing busy work or projects they don’t fully buy into, operating with inaccurate assumptions, or wasting time on irrelevant tasks due to unclear expectations.
Action: The follow-through
If the personal leadership domain of taking action is where your promises fall short, you may share your best intentions to impress people while knowing deep down that you won’t actually deliver because you’re already overcommitted and under supported.
This is the secret strategy of successful, yet overwhelmed leaders who practice this and other similar strategies. While they may keep the balls in the air, they likely also perpetuate imposter syndrome, perfectionistic habits, or they may suffer from the ailments of leaders who haven’t yet fully owned their “No.”
If this is you, you may truly intend to review that proposal or look into that book recommendation someone you admire mentions, but then “forget”, or delay actually doing so until some external deadline or milestone pushes you to follow through.
This gives the internal experience of looking good, while always scrambling or performing for praise or validation from an outsider. This leader’s colleagues may dread meetings or fear the conversation will just be lip service if the team has to follow up on requests. This may lead to their questioning the reliability of this leader’s word.
Identify Your No-Flow Zone
Your No-Flow Zone is the area above in which authenticity falters most. By continuing to operate with this integrity breakdown, your ability to perform at peak capacity as a leader is interrupted every time you repeat the pattern of inauthenticity in the ways you do.
Refer to the descriptions above to nail down the area that you least honor, or where your leadership most lacks cohesion. Then, ask yourself, how might that be creating a block to your flow as a leader and contributing to a crack in your foundation by not “walking your talk”?
Now, refer to the example statements in this sample from my ebook, available for download to start your own No-Flow List. Consider the areas of money, career, romance, parenting, family, friends, health, security, etc. to expose the full picture of your personal leadership impact.
The practice of looking at your list and adding to it daily will shed light on the specific ways this habit blocks your potential and will expose the places where you can start to close the gap between your intention and your impact. This will help you take your leadership to the next level because the confidence and integrity that come from knowing you’re honoring your message for others will become apparent in the conversations you have while networking, negotiating, or parenting.
Because a leader who takes herself on, as well as the organizations, the people, and programs she’s passionate about radiates an authority that speaks for itself, and that her target audiences, partners, and other followers will subscribe to as well.
For support in your leadership realignment, use this link to sign up for a complimentary session with Laura, and explore your No Flow Zone as well as the opportunities that exist for you when you’re aligned and fully leverage your leadership potential.