I was asked recently what my one piece of advice would be to future female business leaders. I immediately felt the urge to riddle off my endless list of anecdotal insights but, instead, I found myself taking an embarrassingly long pause as I fought to form a singular piece of advice.
What would I like to relay to the next #GirlBoss generation?
As I pondered her question, I became aware of what I’ve had to fight myself to overcome in my own journey as a leader in business: the ability to make being authentic and vulnerable a surpassing priority while also being a firm and directive leader. There is not a playbook of how-to’s or, in many cases, even female leaders who can readily model this for us. To be clear, this is not to undermine those women who have shattered glass ceiling after glass ceiling so that I could even have the chance to write this article. With heartfelt gratefulness, I deeply honor those women, but I also respectfully stretch forward for more. I am a firm believer that we are to stand on the shoulders of those whose sweat equity paved the way before us and, in turn, we should also take a leap forward into the fullness of what I believe a female leader can and needs to be: fully female and fully powerful.
Recent studies show that by 2020 two-thirds of America’s wealth will be controlled by women. That’s stunningly and wonderfully insane to fathom. However, with this stride forward comes a greater responsibility. As women to press into a new era of female #GirlBoss leadership, I hope it will be one that embodies the full essence of a woman—a woman who is fierce yet warm, authentic yet a possessor of boundaries, fun yet anchored, still yet aflame. I’d like to see a leadership that is hopeful yet practical, gracious yet structured, vulnerable yet unstoppable and emotionally engaging yet steadfast—instead of conforming to the masculine quid pro quo so often found in business.
So, what is my singular piece of advice to the #GirlBoss generation of tomorrow?
Vulnerability: the vulnerability to bravely lead from the anchor of womanhood while refusing to become hardened by the myriad of voices that say there is no place for womanly attributes at the top. To that, I say rubbish. As women, let us press in and fight for vulnerability in order to reshape the major public opinion that views vulnerability and womanhood as weaknesses instead of the strengths that they are.
The generation climbing the ranks craves authenticity, genuine human interaction, bold communication and purposed pursuit.
Shoot, I crave all those things! So many times, I’ve had to fight to implement these traits in my leadership style while being judged and criticized by my superiors and peers. I’ve been told to be less emotionally-engaging, to curb my relational bent, to be more rigid and increasingly removed. I’ve been told to “play the game” and fit myself into a mold that is foreign and forced.
Could I have climbed the ladder faster had I compromised and followed the crowd? Most likely, but what would be the fun of that? From where I stand, effecting change is the whole point. As women, that’s the responsibility we share, continually holding the mold of the modern woman up to the light, carrying it farther than we ever dreamed possible.