Women leaders, it’s time to get out of our own way

By Susan MacKenty Brady on November 8, 2018

Business woman with laptop and documents

I see more and more women in the workplace who are anxious, burnt-out, doubtful, hurried, tired, bossy, and sometimes just plain disappointed—in themselves or others. I have come to believe that this disappointment, which can manifest in not-so-nice ways, is rooted in the simple notion that we think that a person, place or thing is “not good enough.”

So, the question is: How do we navigate our inner dialogue when we’re juggling disappointment in those around us with disappointment in ourselves and our own imperfections? I don’t know about you, but all of this leaves me feeling a bit overwhelmed. I have met and seen ample evidence of well-meaning women everywhere working their tail off, eager to please their employers and show them how much they can do and how dedicated and hard-working they are. And yet, when they share their inner dialogue, it is clear they are spending an equal amount of time questioning themselves or others… In other words, being critical.

Furthermore, they admit to believing that somewhere along the way, they will “arrive,” reaching a level of success where everyone around them will be 100% happy with what they do and the nagging whispers of not being good enough will subside. Until then, their ability to focus on another’s shortcomings becomes far less painful than focusing on their own.

There is No “Arrival” at Enough

What I have found is that there is no arrival at this thing called enough. Why? Because we are introduced to how we aren’t good enough daily, almost everywhere we turn. And if we’re not being brutal with ourselves, we are at risk of being harsh toward others. We must find a way to manage these feelings of contempt and self-doubt.

If we don’t, I don’t think we’ll see as many women in leadership as there could be, despite many organizations and C-level executives who understand the importance of gender parity in leadership. Either we won’t let ourselves play as big as we could, or we diminish others from doing so–ultimately impacting our own potential. It’s a lose-lose.

So, how do you end the cycle of blame and shame in which you’re not good enough and others around you aren’t good enough? The cycle that gives you permission to over-do, hyper-control, make perfect–resulting in your own fatigue (and sometimes “high”) yet often diminishing others around you?

Begin by first noticing what your inner voice is saying about you or others. Test it out. Is the voice lingering past what might be helpful? Is it riding you or hammering on another to the point where you aren’t engaging at your fullest, bringing all your unique gifts and talents to bare?

Once you notice that some of this “nattering” might just be your doing (blame is so seductive, isn’t it?) you can PUSH PAUSE. Just breathe. The banter doesn’t need to continue. Enter compassion…yes, compassion.

This is where gentleness comes in. How about this: “I’m trying my best. I’m human and thus, imperfect. I can take a breath.” Or this: “They are trying their best. They are human, too. What might I get curious about?” When I coach women and tell them their guiding light is the word “gentle” they look at me as if I’m crazy. Gentle. As in: easy does it.

Let’s decide to be a pinch more gentle in tone, style, speed, intensity, self-talk–all of it. There isn’t much evidence of “gentle” in leadership these days. Where there is, positive impact on people and business results doesn’t need to be compromised. Impact can–and will–flourish.

If we want to get more of what we want, we must start by looking at how we might be getting in our own way. What we think and feel drives what we say and do. The name of the game is self-awareness and self-management and it starts with each of us. Only then can we scale all of the hurdles on our leadership journey.

Why? Because who doesn’t want less stress, more ease, less conflict, better relationships, more joy? More of what you want—as opposed to feeling like you are getting pulled in 100 different directions—only to feel at some level, disappointed? Who wouldn’t?


As she writes in Mastering Your Inner Critic and 7 Other High Hurdles to Advancement, out December 3 from McGraw-Hill Education, Susan MacKenty Brady re-iterates how feeling good in our skin, not feeling so exhausted, and having less conflict with others is entirely possible if we learn how to get out of our own way by coaching our Inner Critic. Leave a comment to let us know what resonates with you and order your copy of the book today.

Posted in Blog, Executive Development, Leadership Development, Talent Management, Women in Leadership Tagged with: , , ,

About Susan MacKenty Brady

Susan MacKenty Brady is Executive Vice President of Global Program Strategy & Development at Linkage. She is responsible for guiding the global growth and development of Linkage’s signature immersion learning institutes, as well as public and virtual programming. Now in its 19th year, she also serves as the co-chair of Linkage's Women in Leadership Institute, which boasts a network of over 8,000 alumni worldwide. Susan's personal mission is to help leaders step in to lead their best life, and in support of that mission, she authored The 30 Second Guide to Coaching Your Inner Critic.

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