The Inclusion, Affirmation, and Resiliency of Women Leaders: Dare to Lead Like a Girl

By Dr. Kellie Sanders and Dr. Kristine Servais

The phrase “you throw like a girl” has resonated for years among women, encompassing many female career roles, responsibilities, and skills. Dalia Feldheim’s book Dare to Lead like a Girl: How to Survive and Thrive in the Corporate Jungle is a powerful antidote for a workplace culture that views traits such as passion, vulnerability, and empathy as feminine weaknesses. Dalia describes her own personal journey to balance a career of inspiring leadership and emotional bravery without compromising feminine qualities and traits in her life, work, and family.  She goes even further to recognize a Harvard study where “feminine traits” such as reflection, management, caring, and relationship building common among women in the workplace were identified as outperforming men.

Feldheim has created a guidebook on how women leaders can holistically and individually develop themself, a career, a family, and be a successful contributor to society. In acknowledging that women hold up half the sky, best practices in diversity, equity, and inclusion are not exclusive to women. Feldheim embraces the mutual role of men and women together to transform business, politics, and society to allow for feminine skills to be recognized and valued.

Among the challenges for women addressed in Dare to Lead like a Girl is workplace culture, work-life balance (WLB), addressing adversity, and mastering issues of time. As most women attempt to juggle home, parenting, housework and a career, Feldheim provides guidelines that emphasize self-awareness and mindful care. A basic approach to self-care includes taking time to prioritize and regulate sleep, a balanced diet, exercise, recovery from illness or injury, addressing adversity, and managing time. According to Feldheim, the critical ingredient to a healthy lifestyle and WLB is less about managing time and more about identifying energy sources, a currency women need for life balance. Dare to Lead like a Girl challenges womento overcome the view that self-care and career pursuits are selfish, and instead, women should embrace their unique feminine qualities as gifts to themselves, the workplace, and the world.

Consider discussing the following reflective and conversational questions with a colleague or friend as a means to further understand the provocative lessons from Dare to Lead Like a Girl:

  1. What are your primary challenges to balance your work, home, and personal life? Describe one specific effort you can make to improve your “work-life balance”.
  2. In Dare to Lead Like a Girl Feldheim credits great leaders with an understanding and value for diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI). Share efforts you have made in your role to support DE&I in your organization. What were the challenges and/or benefits of your efforts?
  3. Dare to Lead like a Girl provides strategies to develop a strong awareness of the politics of an organization. One strategy is to map out the key stakeholders and the role a leader has with each. Consider your role and relationship with your key stakeholders. Describe strategies you find successful in working with specific stakeholders to maintain favorable relationships and reduce political influences.
  4. In her chapter Women Hold Up Half the Sky, Feldheim proposes three best practices for female leaders: networking, mentorships, and coaching. Identify ways you have utilized any of these best practices to maximize your success as a leader. What advice would you give to others who may seek out these alternatives for professional growth?
  5. The use of emotions such as empathy, passion, and vulnerability have been suggested by some as feminine leadership characteristics, and often stereotyped as feminine weaknesses. How would you address this concept to aspiring women leaders? Provide personal examples and experiences.

Additional Resources:

As a result of reading this blog, what commitments will you make to further the development and inclusion of the voices of female leaders in business, politics, and society?

Servais and Sanders are the co-founders of Lifeline for Courageous Leadership.

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