By Lupita Peimbert.
Courageous Leadership: the conviction to speak up for what is right, the ability to act in the face of fear, and the habit of continuously giving ourselves credit for our strengths, just to give a few definitions.
At a recent event by the Bay Area Women Leader’s Network in San Francisco, about 120 women discussed this important issue, led by an amazing group of speakers: Cindy Solomon (Cindy Solomon & Associates), Wilma Wallace (Gap), Patricia Murillo (Alternatives in Action), and Sheri Rhodes, (Symantec).
The thoughtful discussion was moderated by Maya Tussing (BlackRock), with welcoming remarks from Julie Abrams, founder of the Bay Area Women Leader’s Network.
“Research shows that in many cases, women won’t take on offered leadership and top executive roles because they fear “not having all the qualifications.” Men, on the other hand, will take those roles with few qualifications knowing they can stretch to the result. THAT is something we need to change,” said Cindy Solomon. “100% of us are courageous, but we need to give credit ourselves for that in order to build our courage muscles,” she added.
Sheri Rhodes recalled and shared: “Years ago I was presented with an opportunity to take a higher position; I found myself making a list of my education and past accomplishments -to justify that I was qualified for this leadership role, instead of just assuming I was, like most men do. We have the habit of doubting ourselves, even though our professional record speaks by itself.”
“Considering that women represent the 61% of the workforce, and that only 18% of us are currently in leadership roles, there is still a lot to be done,” expressed Patricia Murillo.
As I was listening to these powerful women leaders, I could not help to think about some of my former women colleagues and how they struggled, some of my friends, and even myself, and how we all, once we had spoken up, had to face a backlash. I wonder, How can women increase their courageous thermometer, if the many times they have done it, they have been labeled “difficult,” “bitch,” or “conflict-driven,” by peers and bosses, not only men but even by other women?
Courageous Leadership requires certain traits, experts say. Some women have them naturally, many others can learn them. Susan Tardanico, a contributor to Forbes who writes about Leadership, says these are the most important traits of Courageous Leadership:
“Confront reality head on, seek feedback and listen, say what needs to be said, take action on performance issues, communicate openly and frequently, make decisions and move forward, give credit to others, and hold people accountable.”
In the process of becoming more courageous, it is okay for women to seek support. “I rely on my friends, the people who I trust. They are my sounding-board; I confide on them and listen to their opinions,” said Wilma Wallace. “At the end, you make your own choices, but it helps to be supported while you go through that process,” she added.
One important concept that needs to be revisited is that not every person of the men and women who are in leadership positions at public or private organizations, indeed are courageous leaders. “Leadership does not equate with courage! Positional authority, leaders of large entities with influence who are weak of soul and backbone are rampant,” Julie Abrams pointed out. “Courage is such an inside job. We are conditioned as a gender to hide our courage and not claim it.”
Solomon agrees: “It takes the same energy to fear than to make positive business and career decisions. Build your courage.”
A very important clarification is that Courageous Leadership it is not only for or about women, although it is highly needed to create more opportunities for this gender.
Author and Trainer Mike Dilbeck says it best: “Courageous Leadership is something that everyone human being can aspire to show as a way of being — not as a title to attain — so that we are ready and able in any moment to stand up, step in, and speak out for what’s right!”
And so, ladies and gentlemen, you may start acting upon Courageous Leadership.
The Bay Area Women Leaders Network is a group of influential women leaders in corporations and philanthropy. Discussions focus on propelling women leaders through education, networking and promoting them and their careers. We share a commitment to promoting women and girl’s philanthropy and social justice.
3 Resources for Courageous Leadership:
- Odd Girl Out: The Hidden Culture of Aggression in Girls, by Rachel Simmons.
- Forbes: 10 Traits of Courageous Leaders, by Susan Tardanico.
- CREED: I Am Courageous Leadership, by Mike Dilbeck.