Does your understanding of a leader encapsulate any of the above?
A few days ago, I had a face-time phone call with a very significant leader whose resilience and work ethic I admire. Once I got on the call and my face came on, first thing he said was- this is the LOOK! This is the professional hair color and look that you should always be on!
On that day, I had short hair, no make up, I looked so tired and stressed and was about getting into my 7th meeting for the day! As serious as this may sound, for every time I have had meetings with individuals who sit at the helm of power; the panic of appearing beautiful sets me away from any kind of make up or pretty look because long ago, I inadvertently bought into the belief that serious leaders don’t look or should not look pretty.
Why should I be Pretty?I thought. Leaders should not appear pretty.
Recently I met a very pretty lady. I had just arrived at a conference where I was meant to speak and this concerned lady looked directly at my face with so much care and said-you have nothing on. It suddenly dawned on me that truly this has been my pattern for so long. This lady shared the same experiences that she had excruciatingly gone through to be taken seriously.An exceptionally brilliant young woman who like many of us,have continuously carried the burden of doing much more than our male counterparts to prove ourselves and to be deserving of what we seek.
Many women have come forward to narrate how they have not been taken seriously in their leadership endeavors in business, decision making, nation building etc because they “showed up pretty” thus were not taken seriously and so they have lost hopes in their dreams. Some Women also shared that people are slowly becoming open to “beauty & leadership” as we call it.
Studies have shown that assertive women are more likely to be perceived as aggressive; that often time, women do not negotiate for themselves because when they do, they risk being tagged as domineering or ambitious. In Africa, it is sometimes perceived as an “overly forward woman”or perhaps a woman who didn’t have the right upbringing. An act which has been stereotyped in Africa thus women stay in silence and rarely discuss their capabilities or what they can do for fear of being seen as too ambitious!
Research has shown that we(women) need to negotiate/ promote our capabilities otherwise no one else will. Silence is not where we belong anymore. We must raise our voice, raise our hands and truly apply knowledge in order to revolutionize our world from the old ways.
We are deserving of every honor, every accomplishment and every life we touch. It is earned and so we must learn to celebrate and embrace it.
We can no longer ascribe these qualities to men alone. There are women doing phenomenal things who are deserving of a sit at the helm of leadership.We have to be opened to this new normal.
As we redefine this absurd belief, We need to first learn to balance beauty and leadership. Quit expecting a stern, dull looking individual for a leader. When you Think Leadership- Think Revolutionary Leaders! Step out of the stalled mindsets!
I have the responsibility to help us all cultivate openness and have a new mindset for what leadership truly is. There is so much to learn and change about leadership, I am grateful to have had and to continue to have these opportunities for consistent growth.