Feminine values

Lead Like a Leading Woman


"I don't think I'm displaying leadership. I just think I'm displaying humanity," said Jacinda Ardern, PM, NZ, in the wake of terror attacks against Muslims in NZ.

Which begs the question, why is this so unusual that we take notice? Why don’t more leaders display humanity?

My heart goes out to those affected by this tragedy.

My admiration goes out to a leader not afraid to show compassion.

READ MORE - SMH article in the link https://lnkd.in/fVQwip3

Credit: SMH article World's tallest building lit up with image of Jacinda Ardern, by Joel MacManus Photo taken by Wellington photographer Hagen Hopkin

Vive la révolution! #ambitionrevolution #LookOutCSuiteHereSheComes #feminineambitionrocks 

Feel like your leadership journey has stalled? Email ablesing@amandablesing.com to set up a 30 min one on one to learn more. Helping clients shift from feeling invisible to becoming invincible in just 12 months

When dropping the "f" bomb is good for executive women

So there I was at the beginning of a speaking gig.  And all of a sudden I got the urge to drop the "f" bomb.

I wasn't feeling unusual. The environment wasn't any more supportive or challenging than normal and the crowd was fantastic.

Then I started to speak and  .... all of a sudden out it came.

And I feel great! 

Yes, I used the word feminist at a corporate function and it's about time.

F ...... ascinating.

I’ll keep saying I’m a feminist until there is no reaction.
— Justin Trudeau, Prime Minister, Canada

Feminism explained

Feminism is one of those words that goes in and out of fashion. In fact, Justin Trudeau, PM, Canada is widely credited with making the term fashionable again. Yet credit where credit is due to Gloria Steinem and others who have worked tirelessly for years on behalf of women. (Check out Gloria's show on SBS on Demand if you want to be inspired.)

In general feminism refers to ideas, philosophies and political activities that further the rights of women including education, employment, economic and social rights. Right now, we're seeing a significant push for increased female rights with female empowerment now a mainstream notion.

Yet there are many women and men who resist the term.  


Why did I mention it? 

Because I wanted to call a spade a spade. There is no use pussy footing around and pretending that what I do (helping to create empowered female leaders) is not an act of feminism. I'm not apologising and  .... nor should you for wanting to lead as a woman. Feminism isn't about tearing anyone down, it's about supporting the rights of women - which has a significant beneficial economic and social flow on effect for future generations of both men and women.

How did it come about?

Did you know that 1975 was International Women's Year? I'd forgotten. How interesting - a year just for women. Significantly the National Youth Council of Australia published an awesome little book entitled "If I Was A Lady and Other Picture Stories - a mature girl's guide to motherhood, occupation, education and pleasure" as part of the 1975 celebration of women.  Importantly, my mother recently found this book in storage and returned it to me. And it reminded me of where my ideologies had formed and my notions of what it means to be a contributing member of society.

So last week I brought this little blue book out at the Melbourne Showcase and we all had a good old time reading and reflecting. Yet most of us sighed and laughed in turn because it was obvious that while we've come a long way in some areas, we still have a long way to go.

A long way to go

Quartz media recently published an article by Charles Kenny entitled "An economist warns that the next generation of feminists will feel even more frustrated" which highlights exactly how far we have to go.

Areas that have improved significantly over the last 40+ years?

  • education for women
  • representation of women in policy and government
  • health programs for women 
  • employment for women in general 

Areas where we still have considerable way to go?

  • female leadership in government and corporate
  • expectations of women around housework and domestic duties
  • perpetuation of stereotypes in the media of both men and women
  • attitudes towards women and domestic violence

What's needed?

  • Straight talking and smart thinking. No more pussy footing around, and men along with women prepared to call a spade a spade. No more hiding behind attitudes of this is the way we've always done it round here.  Boards, shareholders and consumers/voters should be holding leaders to account.
  • Supported by cultural and behavioural change programs in combination with quotas and targets. Not EITHER/OR but YES/AND.  

This is not just women's work. This is far bigger than that.  Men and women in leadership need to stand up and be counted - not just because it's better for business and government, but because we'll all be better off as a result.

Because it's 2017

Justin Trudeau, when questioned about his decision to appoint a cabinet with 50% women, used the simple rationale of "because it's 2015".

I say, "We've been working hard at gender equity for years. It's now time to work far smarter!"
Why? Because it's 2017.

End of rant - and you can blame that little blue book "If I Was a Lady". 

Vive la révolution!

#ambitionrevolution #LookOutCSuiteHereSheComes #feminineambition #careerfutureproofing #visibility #womeninleadership

Let me know your thoughts.  Have you ever dropped the "f" bomb at work? If yes, why? If no, why not?

Feel like your leadership journey has stalled? Email ablesing@amandablesing.com to set up a 30 min one on one to learn more. Helping clients shift from feeling invisible to becoming invincible in just 12 months

When feminine leadership super powers become a poisoned chalice

You might remember Heather Sarson's research into collaboration and gender where she coined the phrase 'co-author penalty'. Heather is a Ph.D. candidate at Harvard, and looked at CVs from economists who went up for tenure between 1975 and 2014 in one of the top 30 PhD-granting universities in the United States. She found a bias toward men in instances where men and women co-authored research papers, and found that co-authoring with men had a sting in the tail for women.


Well I think I've found another issue - the 'collaborative problem solving poisoned chalice phenomenon'.

Where you're rewarded for tackling projects that other people don't prefer ..... not with a promotion, but with more projects that people don't prefer. 

Let me explain.

  • You know when you've asked, negotiated and lobbied for a raise or promotion so many times, even you're sick of hearing about it?  
  • Finally your manager indicates that he/she will be willing to consider your request but only after you've untangled an extremely complex problem. In fact, this problem is so complex it could either way - a career maker or breaker, depending on the outcome.
  • So you accept the challenge, focus intensively (because it's the right thing to do AND you do love a good collaborative problem solving challenge) - then put your nose to the grindstone while you tackle the project.
  • Finally - despite this problem being one that many others have tried to solve (and failed), you not only prevail but you excel.  Woot!

So you go to your boss with your glowing report card, only to be told that:

  • Someone else got the role you really wanted while you were so focused, and
  • Not only can the organisation no longer afford to give you that raise, but ... wait for it ....
  • They have another equally complex problem for you to tackle next!!!

Sound familiar?   Sadly I hear this story frequently as organisations struggle to understand, value and reward feminine leadership talent in their leadership talent pipeline.

The problems?

  • Collaborative, complex problem solving is a unique (and feminine) expertise - but is not (yet) seen as a trait of great leadership
  • When work becomes "feminised" it's devalued - in fact salaries drop
  • For you the individual - accepting that challenge without ensuring your leadership goals remain front and centre, visible to both yourself and your leadership team, is a risk
  • For the organisation -  because complex problem solving is not rewarded in leadership development it's possibly yet another reason why talented women are still leaning out after just a few years in an organisation.

What can you do?

  • Great results don't tell the whole story - great results might speak for themselves but they don't tell others that you have leadership goals or ambitions. Work is not school - you can't rely on results to get you ahead.
  • Always keep your eye on the prize - don't become so focused that you lose sight of your ultimate goal even for a moment.
  • Always be visible - maintain your visibility in the leadership talent pipeline despite being sidelined to do other work. Just likeClippy who used to pop up on your computer all the time, you want to do the same. Keep networking, keep catching up with other leaders in the business, keep pitching your great ideas up the business.
  • Always be leaderly - keep your future leadership personal brand front and centre in all interactions - try not to become branded as The Fixer.
  • Mitigate risk - is there a way of involving someone else such as HR in that conditional raise/promotion discussion?
  • Don't wear yourself out - so often we throw ourselves into our work so much that we wear ourselves out and lose momentum.  Find your tipping point and stay well below it for the duration.
  • Flick the switch from proving your worth, to knowing your worth - and head on in and start negotiating for a role and/or raise that you do prefer.
Femininity is the operating system of twenty-first century progress. Women—and the men who can think like them—are creating a future we’ll all want to inhabit
— John Gezerma

And if it has happened to you, do chat with me. I'd not only love to hear your story, but let's create a strategy to get you out of yet another drawn out, tangled black hole of a complex problem with no light at the end of the tunnel.

Vive la révolution!
#ambitionrevolution #LookOutCSuiteHereSheComes #feminineambition

If you enjoyed this please spread the word!  Let's inspire women everywhere to keep their eye on the prize.


Feel like your leadership journey has stalled? Email ablesing@amandablesing.com to set up a 30 min one on one to learn more. Helping clients shift from feeling invisible to becoming invincible in just 12 months

Feminine Leadership Traits - the way of the 21st Century

We’ve all seen plenty of articles about what it is that women do wrong.  Sad to say, I’ve certainly contributed my fair share in that space . Why? Because they get higher read rates from both men and women alike. Case in point, I’ve been publishing almost weekly for one year, and the three articles that have been most popular (and I don’t just mean by a few hundred views, I’m referring to 1000’s of views)?


(Hint: don’t click on the links if you don’t want to perpetuate the cycle!)

The fact remains that when there is gender diversity in the leadership team – organisations have a better track record of achieving great results including increased productivity, increased profitability, better risk mitigation, higher staff engagement and higher customer satisfaction ratings amongst other things.   

In fact, if there were an “app for that”, it would be an absolute sell out!

The reality however is somewhat more challenging as organisations and governments struggle to meet gender diversity targets, with women hitting up against road blocks, brick walls and glass ceilings of bias, discrimination and resistance to change.

“I haven’t found myself constrained by the male models of leadership because I haven’t found them particularly inspiring, so why copy something you didn’t like?” Ann Sherry, 2015 AFR & Westpac Woman of Influence

Our business culture is pretty saturated with images of masculine leadership as the ideal – strong, decisive, direct and to the point.  Female leaders as role models are still pretty few and far between in business and politics the world over and frequently stereotypes one or two characterestics such as "grace and poise". I'm pretty confident that while grace and poise are wonderful things, feminine leadership is made up of much, much more. 

Additionally there is a tendency for us to fall back on all or nothing thinking - so if one woman makes a mistake, gets something wrong or even behaves less than leaderly - it becomes a transgression for all women, judged by both men and women everywhere.  

So what exactly is it that women bring to the table that appears to add such great value? What do women do right – not wrong?  What are these characteristics/traits/values? And are they limited to only women?   We’re pretty focused on “fixing the problem” but the reality is perhaps these characteristics should instead be highly sought after by both men and women.

The Athena Doctrine - by John Gerzema & Michael D’Antonio explores a bunch of characteristics that are traditionally seen as the domain of the feminine, are great for solving problems in business, and are also seen by younger generations of future leaders as highly desirable.

“Femininity is the operating system of twenty-first century progress. Women—and the men who can think like them—are creating a future we’ll all want to inhabit” John Gezerma

Why? Because we live in a world that is increasingly global, interconnected, social, transparent and interdependent. This new world needs long term solutions, collaborative strategies and joined up thinking.  These traits are more than a simple preference. In fact it would appear they are more in the needs/must category.  So the traits/skills/characteristics that operate well in this new joined up global economy include:

  • Listening
  • Communicating
  • Collaborating
  • Adapting
  • Promoting a positive culture where purpose and profits co-exist
  • Inclusive decision-making and
  • Nurturing of relationships.

As you can see, anyone can do these things - men and women alike. They are not gender specific but more traditionally aligned with the feminine. There is an interesting interview with Janet Crawford on Forbes that highlights feminine leadership traits and how they contribute to great leadership and innovation if you want to know more.

So what can you do?

Do you remember in a recent article on negotiation and bias, we learned that when women are told that good negotiators require listening, communication and emotional intelligence, they outperformed the men in negotiating in mixed pairs?

So maybe if we remind ourselves that the traits and skills that women use more naturally are highly desirable as leadership traits, we'll be more likely to want to put our hand up to lead, to lean in and to ride out the initial discomfort and resistance to change from others.

Feminine leadership traits are alive and well and should be encouraged rather than torn down, allowed to flourish rather than trying produce little “mini me’s”, and also allowed to be diverse rather than limited to simply grace and poise under pressure.

So next time you read articles about what women do wrong, remind yourself again of what exactly is it that women do right – and that it’s not just great for women, but great for business and community too.  

Your thoughts?  Comments below.

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  •  I am the creator of The Ambition Revolution – the science and  art of amping smart and savvy. 
  • I mentor busy professionals to ensure they remain strategic, agile and focused on the bigger game. 

  • I also work with organisations who are trying to increase the profile of women in leadership, but struggling to do so

Feel like your leadership journey has stalled? Email ablesing@amandablesing.com to set up a 30 min one on one to learn more. Helping clients shift from feeling invisible to becoming invincible in just 12 months