Whether you are a woman leader, aspire to be one or work alongside one, it’s important to be aware of the myths that can hold women back as they step out into leadership.
In my work with women leaders over the years, I have observed several myths that women often believe when influencing others. While they are not exclusively women, they are primarily seen in women due to socialization, culture and many other factors.
The challenge is that women actually believe these myths, they are limited in their ability to truly influence others in profound and important ways. Further, the myths can limit the level of leadership, impact and results created.
Here are the three most common myths that I have heard from women and some ideas about how to debunk them and take new action!
Myth #1 - “Women Shouldn't Self-Promote”
Many women that I talk with feel that self-promotion is considered bragging, arrogant and out of line. Feeling that promoting yourself and your accomplishments is unacceptable. Actually, the truth is that not being willing to self-promote is holding women back. When we don’t promote our thoughts and ideas, there is the potential for other people get credit for things that we're working on. Further, we diminish our contribution and success when we don’t promote self-promote.
If you are a woman leader, take time to learn how to promote your ideas and recommendations in a way that feels authentic and aligned for you. Practice celebrating your accomplishments and owning what you “bring to the table.” Begin with small things if it is uncomfortable but challenge yourself to share success stories, things you are proud of and how you contributed to results.
If you work with women leaders and want to support them, ask them what they are proud of, what they want to be acknowledged for. It will feel odd at first but drawing that out with a kind and curious question will benefit both of you (she will articulate her contribution and you will know more about her and become an advocate for her leadership).
Myth #2 - “My Hard Work is Enough and Will Eventually Pay Off”
I hear this many, many times from women leaders. “If I work hard enough, meet my goals and get the results, that should be enough. People will see my hard work and appreciate me.”
While achievement is important, it’s often not enough to influence people. What is often needed is the hard work upfront but then the ability to articulate the wins, learnings and impact of the work. When we get stuck thinking, “I did a good job. Why aren't I getting recognized?” or, “I did a good job. That should be enough. That's my merit.” we limit our success.
If you are a woman leader, take time to celebrate your hard work but then consider who you need to share it with (beyond your manager and team), what type of communication will spotlight your work and how to share the results more widely across the organization. Be deliberate in who and how you influence others with your hard work and results generated.
If you work with women leaders and want to encourage them, work with them to articulate the impact of their hard work and then brainstorm who needs to know about it. Assist them in using their ideas and results to build relationships across the company with multiple stakeholders.
Myth #3 - “Women Aren't Good at Influencing”
With the above limiting beliefs and many others, women leaders get to the point where we simply don’t believe we are good at influencing. This, in turn, has women feel they don’t have the skills or capacity to be influential and the result of this is somewhat self-fulfilling - we end up not being good at influencing.
This results in a lack of self-confidence to promote your ideas, work results and recommendations. Unfortunately, it impairs your ability to succeed fully in your career and life.
If you are a woman leader, take time to explore your relationship with influence. Do you see yourself as someone who is influential? If so, how have you influenced others? If not, why are you not influencing more often? Take the time to get really present to yourself and the cost of these myths/limiting beliefs.
If you work with women leaders, encourage them to expand their influencing skills by providing resources and support. Help them see the value of being influential and become an ally in helping women understand what and how people can be influenced in a positive, ethical manner.
Going forward, I invite you to reflect on the myths I described to see if any are familiar to you. It is surprisingly common for women to hold one or all of these limiting beliefs. This is how so many of us have been socialized as women.
Unfortunately, some of these things that we've been taught are now holding us back and limiting our ability to create a new level of impact. It’s time to challenge these myths. I look forward to reading your comments and hearing all the new ways you are influencing others and creating impact!
If this is something you’re interested in and want to delve further so that you can be more influential, please join us for one of our upcoming webinars or events.
Athena Williams, Founder and CEO of Uplevel DNA, has been facilitating leadership programs for individuals and organizations for over 18 years. Her powerful, impactful approach creates deep and sustainable transformation within a short time. She is currently working with leading companies to uplevel their leadership and accelerate business results. Athena is the author of the upcoming book, The Uplevel Code, to be released in late 2019.