I recently read an article titled "Bad Female Boss? She may have Queen Bee Syndrome" (http://tiny.cc/wwz4c) and felt compelled to write this post. In my work with more and more female leaders, I'm finding that many of them are struggling in their relationships with their employees. Although these women are highly competent, intelligent and extremely hard workers, they are often difficult to work for.
The article states that, "According to one group of German researchers, women who reported to female supervisors had higher cases of depression, headaches, heartburn and insomnia than if their bosses were men." Although the assumption has been that women will make more compassionate leaders, the reality has yet to play out that way.
Many of the female bosses I work with have had to fight their way through "good ole' boys clubs, patronization, contempt and an overall hostile work environment for women leaders. Many of these women responded to these environments by managing like men…and even tougher. The article reports that, "The Queen Bee Syndrome is the alpha female who tries to preserve her power at all cost." Although I understand how women have gotten to this place, it is not at all the place where we want to stay. Bringing more hardness into corporate America is the last thing I would like to see women doing.
Women, and the world, will benefit by women stepping in with a new kind of leadership. I challenge female leaders to think differently than ever before. Dare to step out from the old "power-over" paradigm and into a new paradigm that models a calm strength, a grounded presence and a collaborative spirit that truly mentors rather than shames those working under us. When we are grounded in our own strength, we will no longer feel the need to grind others into the ground to show we are on top. When we believe in ourselves, we will not be shaken by the success of other females around us—we will celebrate it.
Below are a few tips to keep in mind as a female leader:
1. Watch the tone. Just because someone makes a mistake does not mean you have the right to talk down to them, shame them or snap at them. Treat all of your employees with respect at all times.
2. Be a mentor not a drill sergeant. Take the time to show them how to think, create, and implement new ideas. Don't just give orders. Being punitive is the quickest way to create an angry, resentful employee. Be sure you teach them not punish them.
3. Listen to their voices. The absolute best way to instill loyalty from your employees is through positive treatment. If your employees feel you have their back, they will have yours. Trust me! Listen to their ideas, encourage creative thinking and create an environment where your door is always open. Do not shut them down either in a meeting or one on one. Do not allow anyone else on your team to shut your employees down either.
4. Remember and own your humanity. If you screw up—own it. Acknowledge your mistakes with humility and grace. This is excellent role modeling and will create a more compassionate work environment. If your employees say they don't like something you did—listen to their feedback. Their feedback is a gift to your leadership, have the courage to take it in.
5. Get centered. Remember that your inherent worth is equal to every other human being's worth. Do not try to prove yourself to those in higher positions than you or to those in lower positions. Be confident in who you are and refuse to squash anyone along your journey to the top (including yourself).
Being a leader is a gift. It is an opportunity to create change on a larger level. Take the time to think about the type of change you want to create. Don't just do the status quo—that's not being a leader. As a woman, dare to step out and be a new type of leader. We need more powerful, relational leaders than ever before. Have the courage to start a new paradigm shift in leadership that builds people up rather than tears them down. Start the ripple of change by daring to step out of old constraints.
Challenge: Take a long, hard look at your leadership style and ask yourself if you would want to work for you. If the answer is no, or you struggle with your employees, it's time to shift your leadership mindset. Mentor don't shame; build up don't tear down; lead don't bully.