It’s not very comfortable being a white middle-class man in society at the moment, and I worried that Lead Like a Woman may just be more of the same. But I went home last night and said to my wife, every single leader, male and female should do this course!
It was a cold Friday. I struggled to get out of bed and had really lost my mojo somewhere. I was due to facilitate the second day of an aspirant leaders program based around the incredible Lead Like a Woman program developed by Megan Dalla-Camina and Michelle McQuaid – but I was just not feeling it. Facilitating workshops is normally my happy place but today I was filled with dread.
Day One of Lead Like a Women is pretty intense. These particular participants were fairly early in their leadership journey, many still teachers with classroom responsibilities. The aspirants arrive wanting to know The Magic Leadership Formula, the one that will win them their promotion. Instead the program dives deep into ‘know thyself’ asking; when am I at my best, when are my strengths working for me and when am I overusing them? How can I build my confidence, be more present and more vulnerable?
This can be pretty confronting stuff for teachers who are ‘doers’ and ‘carers’, many of whom had not chosen to come but had been put forward by their Principal. Their sponsor had seen in them a quality that the participants had not yet seen in themselves. By the afternoon of the first day they all looked exhausted and somewhat lost. This was heavy stuff.
I have been running leadership programs and professional learning for over 10 years and I must admit I left day one wondering if this program was actually what these folks needed. Maybe they just needed Leadership 101 – whatever that is?!
Overnight I fought every single urge in my body to ‘get creative’ and change up the program. Creativity is my key signature strength, yet I know when I overplay it I find myself in real trouble. I slept badly, tossing and turning, the competing voices in my head shouting at me – just give them opportunities to talk and to process what they did yesterday and where they need to go today.
The voice of reason finally insisted – let them ask for what they need. You know your stuff, if you need to get creative during the day, you can do it. In the meantime, stick to the plan.
And so we found ourselves at the beginning of Day Two, sitting in a circle doing a check-in. I asked “What did you think about last night? What resonated with you, what questions do you have? Anyone want to start?”
“Yes, I will,” said Digby.
“It’s not very comfortable being a white middle-class man in society at the moment,” he said, “and I worried that a course based on Lead Like a Woman may just be more of the same. But I went home last night and said to my wife, every single leader – male and female – should do this course!”
And so the real discussions began…
“How freeing it was to hear of the research by John Gerzema and Michael D’Antonio (that led to the book The Athena Doctrine),” said one participant. “I now know I have permission to lead the way that feels right for me.”
“I have resisted leadership for so long because I had a real image in my head of what a leader was supposed to be like and that wasn’t me,” said another.
“Until yesterday, I didn’t think my gender had any impact on my work but then I realised that it does. The other deputy principal is a man – he gets the “man jobs” like behaviour management and I get tears and tampons,” said a third.
The discussions were wonderful and throughout the day the participants continued to demonstrate the honesty, vulnerability and type of presence rarely seen in public workshops.
AND the part that really makes my heart sing are the coaching conversations I have had with the participants after the program. Robust, empowered, inspiring conversations where the coachees have identified the need to BE their authentic selves to achieve their leadership ambitions. Rather than learn more, do more or try harder they now understand how to put their unique strengths and styles to work to ensure they succeed as a leader.
During our coaching conversations, goals which started off as I want to strengthen my skills of effective leadership developed to become I will develop ways to turn off the voice in my head (that says things are either right or wrong) so that I don’t waste energy interrogating what is going wrong.
Another coachee originally stated her goal as I will become more efficient at my job and this became I will be kind to myself by setting boundaries with my staff and my boss around being interrupted during defined periods of the day.
And lastly, I will be successful at getting to interview became I will be slowing down and communicating with clarity so that my message is understood at all levels.
And what about Digby’s goal? His was I will embrace the feminine traits of leadership and my strengths of kindness and fairness so I lead with authenticity and impact.
Please feel free to contact Jenny on 0401 679 344 or firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.