Historically, women have looked to male leaders in the workplace for mentorship and guidance, if only because there were simply more male leaders than female leaders in the workforce. However, today's world is packed with high-performing females, which gives women the opportunity to be exposed to feminine models of leadership and all the benefits that come with it.
Feminine and masculine leadership models really aren't so different; big-picture thinking, strategic risk-taking and innovation play a big part in both models. But female-centric leadership tends to depart from traditionally male-centric leadership in two significant ways that reflect the benefits of women mentoring other women.
Feminine models of leadership emphasize:
1. Accepting imperfection and embracing vulnerability.
Women with entrepreneurial aspirations often mistakenly believe that the successful women they most admire and seek mentorship from have never deeply doubted their own competence, never felt or publicly appeared less than polished, and have never experienced any serious setbacks.
Let's put this myth to rest. It's important for those I mentor or might inspire to know that my path to entrepreneurial success was no picnic, nor was it paved with perfection. I've had my share of serious setbacks, and even now, when I watch video clips of my speaking engagements from five or six years ago and see how unpolished I was, I cringe and think, "Oh, I hope that nobody ever sees this!"
I was not and am not perfect, and I did and still can feel vulnerable about myself and my business, but this didn't and doesn't stop me from succeeding! As a successful entrepreneur, it's my job to tell the women I mentor: imperfection didn't stop me, and it's not going to stop you! Imperfection is not your enemy.
As women, I think we sometimes confuse empowerment with invulnerability. Empowerment is not about being perfect or never feeling vulnerable. Empowerment is about accepting all the ways we and our work are less than perfect, embracing vulnerability as part of our own and others' humanity, and having the courage to put ourselves out there and move forward anyway.
2. Trusting and celebrating the growth process.
As women, we need female mentors who can help us overcome our perfectionism by showing us how to trust and celebrate the growth process. When we get caught in the trap of perfectionism, not only do we lose sight of the process, we also lose critical windows of opportunity.
In a world where change is constant and opportunity comes as quickly as it goes, insisting the path to success is smooth and straight the whole way is unrealistic. While it's important to hold ourselves to certain standards, it's crucial for us to understand that the perfect is the enemy of the good. In real life, perfection isn't possible as any kind of permanently achievable state. Not in ourselves, not in our coworkers, and not in our businesses.
Don't let this be discouraging! It should be a relief because it means you can relax into the growth process. Trust that your best is good enough and learn as you go. Capitalize on opportunities as they arise instead of waiting for the perfect opportunity that may never come. As I often say, be an editor, not a perfectionist.
As female leaders, we can sometimes be too hard on ourselves. This strikes me as ironic, since we all love a good challenge! The real challenge -- and one I believe is missing from masculine models of leadership -- is to be kinder to ourselves. If female entrepreneurs chose to take on only one challenge from their female mentors, this might be one of the most worthwhile.
By accepting imperfection, embracing our vulnerability, and trusting and celebrating the growth process, we learn to give ourselves credit for simply having the courage to undertake the demanding and difficult journey of becoming a successful entrepreneur and leader.
Masculine models of leadership tend to focus exclusively on the destination, and while the destination is important, Feminine models of leadership help us to recognize that the destination is only as satisfying and significant as the journey we take to get there, and only as rewarding as the relationships we form along the way.
Here's to the journey!