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Women’s Leadership Issues in the XXI Century: Part 2 – January 2015/Gaining Confidence and Credibility with Integral Coaching

My previous post focused on what companies can do from a strategic perspective to break the visible and invisible barriers that hold women back. These initiatives range from changing work policies and practices to shifting existing mindsets. In this post, I’ll explore the issue raised by Sheryl Sandberg in her book “Lean In” about how women block their own progress with self-limiting beliefs, and what can be done using integral coaching to help them develop effective leadership styles. After coaching dozens of women formally and informally over the last 20 years, I agree with Sandberg that women at times exhibit leadership styles that can be obstacles to their success. I will describe three primary leadership styles below that I have encountered in my practice, followed by the real issues behind each style and the integral coaching approach I use to successfully deal with each style.

Integral coaching is a coaching methodology that facilitates human development and takes the whole person into considerations. It helps clients deal with their blind spots so that new possibilities open for themselves, their relationships with others and the environment that surrounds them. In order for change to occur, the client first becomes an observer of his/her own experience, and then tries new behaviors that get anchored in his/her body.     

Leadership Style 1: “I Can’t Find my Voice”

This woman is always the last to give ideas. She hesitates when she speaks instead of giving her opinion with confidence. Other people say that she is too passive, she doesn’t assert herself or she doesn’t know what she is talking about.

The real issue here has to do with sexism. In many societies around the world the myth has existed that women are less than men and not as powerful. We women believed it ourselves; we have taken this as real and we have become victims. Then comes the inner critic (the superego) which most of us accept as a necessary moral compass in our lives to judge and attack us relentlessly.

Integral coaching approach

  1. This person needs to examine her own beliefs about who she is and challenge the belief about being inferior. How? By observing the inner critic. The purpose of this self-observation is to develop the capacity to catch oneself and say this isn’t true.
  2. She also need to engage in self-care activities and put herself first, not in a selfish way but to make sure her voice becomes stronger

Leadership Style 2: “The Leaking Hose”

Instead of being grounded, this woman is all over the place. Imagine the difference between a hose with a sprinkler and a hose with a nozzle. It is the same amount of water, in one case the water comes out with force and in the other case the water force is diffused and it is as not effective.

The real issue is connected to an inability to build internal and external supports that prevent this woman form having a focused mind and a grounded body. When things come along, they throw her off balance. She fears commitment, is afraid of missing something and cannot say NO.

Integral coaching approach

  1. This woman needs to learn how to ground herself so her energy is not all over the place. One way to do this is through external supports, like having two alarm clocks, setting her clothes the night before, having a huge calendar and marking things three days before they are due, etc. Another way this woman creates internal supports is through collaborative relationships. The strength of the team helps her focus and reach her goals.
  2. She also needs to begin to say NO when things come up and commit to accomplishing one thing at a time.

Leadership Style 3: “The Amazon that Chops Heads”  

This woman caries a sword into the workplace and she swings it right and left slaying all her relationships as she goes along. She is blind to the fact that business is all about relationships. She may think her technical ability and intelligence separates her from the pack.

The real issue here is that she is out of relationship with herself and others. She has the belief that everything is about her and that she doesn’t need anyone else.

Integral coaching approach

  1. This woman needs to learn that life is about relationships. By serving others in ways that are profoundly needed, she can become truly interested in people and begin to build fulfilling relationships.
  2. She also needs to get out of the center. One way this can be accomplished is by speaking last at meetings and listening intently.

Effective leadership built on confidence and credibility can be achieved, no matter what leadership style a woman starts with. My work, which consists of over 20 years of consulting, coaching and speaking for the corporate world, strongly indicates that open, honest and trusting relationships established in coaching situations can help women open doors to critical opportunities and push through challenges.