Hidden Conflicts Hobble Women Leaders

  1. Hidden Conflicts Hobble Women Leaders
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Hidden Conflicts Hobble Women Leaders

Invisible Conflicts that Plague All Women Leaders

Boxes and boxes of bestselling books have been written about the external conflicts that challenge leaders. Disagreements flourish between upper management and board members and among C-suite leaders and middle management. Disputes between team members stifle productivity. The H.R. department is often blamed for difficulties attracting talented recruits. Many R&D innovators despise accountants when they present gloomy balance sheets. Unions badger management. Unhappy customers complain to customer service staff. Quality control staff slam on the brakes, struggling to stop the marketing department from premature product releases that will damage a company’s reputation. The list seems endless in today’s complex, polarized society.

It is quite rare to read explorations of the internal, highly conflicted voices that babble away inside every leader, no matter how confident, competent and clear they appear to be. Leaders, like all humans, possess components of their personalities that clash like squabbling siblings clamoring to claim an over-worked parent’s limited attention.

All of our parts have specific needs, preferences and an often rigid point of view. Our parts could peacefully co-exist if they would all select the same sheet music with the sole objective of producing a splendid symphony.

Why Don’t Our Parts Perform in Four-Part Harmony?

Unlike a musical symphony produced by a conductor who carefully chooses team players who will support each other’s work, the internal parts of our personalities are a mismatched, motley crew of discontents, zealots and other opinionated parties with rival objectives. Our personal parts have never set the intention to collaborate with the other players in our invisible, internal daily dramas. The parts of us that fear their needs will never be met struggle mightily to monopolize our attention, hoping their desires and demands will finally dominate.

We created our diverse parts at different stages of our maturation, often in response to a challenging phase of life. This includes phases of life when we faced criticism by people who were important to us during that time of development. Here’s just one example: Natural leaders who spontaneously take initiative to create positive change may have developed a counterpart that sometimes hides their brilliant natural leadership light if they were misunderstood or frequently disparaged as a child or a young adult.

If put-downs like, “You’re too big for your britches” and “Just who do you think you are?” weren’t balanced with, “Okay, you have a good idea we’ll consider,” the budding leader’s confidence waned over time. It’s not unusual for adult authority figures to be irritated, offended or even intimidated by a young natural leader’s extraordinary inner strength and spirited nature.

Even after this natural leader leaves childhood in their rear-view mirror, an invisible push-pull can be triggered that hurts all parties involved, including organizations starved for innovative ideas. The result? When one part of the potential trailblazer observes a problem, it confidently and passionately pipes up, “I know how to solve this!” This healthy inner voice is quickly squelched by a protective part that warns, “It’s not safe to share your ideas! You won’t be appreciated. You’ll be misunderstood, criticized and shamed.”

The Power and Pitfalls of a Woman Leader’s Unseen Parts

The potency of a women leader’s unseen parts can be quite profound. Unlike visible skirmishes in our external work world, like quarrels among personnel arguing over scarce resources, the leader’s internal power struggles are often unidentified. If we are unaware of our inner civil war, we may never understand why we hold ourselves back from taking important actions we know could benefit everyone concerned. We’ll underestimate the potential of unseen parts of ourselves to interfere with our leadership abilities.

Some of our unconscious internal battles are fairly inconsequential or easily resolved. When you read the examples below, notice how much more intensely our internal voices clash as fear escalates.

  • One part of me reaches for a pastry right before lunch. Another part of me retracts my hand, reminding me I made a commitment to lose 15 pounds.
  • One part of me wants to promote a direct report named Pat because it’s so easy for me to observe Pat’s creative personality and remarkable strategic thinking abilities. Another part of me signals, “Wait!”, reminding me that Pat’s team members have consistently complained about Pat’s interpersonal skills. I know they would prefer being led by Kelly, who is consistently trustworthy and diligent, though not nearly as daring or innovative.
  • I’ve been groomed by a leader in the C-Suite to become a vice-president. At the same time, I’ve been tutoring one of my excellent direct reports, Len, for promotion. The company unexpectedly begins downsizing, so my chance for the vice-presidency vanish. The leader who was grooming me for the vice-presidency tells me the department I’ve been leading will soon be sliced in half. He encourages me to take the position I’ve been preparing Len to accept. The part of me that would never betray Len urgently asserts, “Travel the road of integrity. It always works to do the right things for the right reasons.” A more frightened part of me shrieks, “This company’s falling apart. You’ve got to protect yourself first!” My gut churns as the part of me driven by survival instincts battles with the part of me that is heart-centered and ethical.

Solutions to Women Leaders’ Unseen Battles

Although it seems counter intuitive, every part of us, even when it is stalling our success, has a positive intention. The resistant parts of us simply need to be re-educated. Most of our parts were created when we were much younger and had fewer life skills and choices. Resistant parts of us still think they must protect us from the positive changes we want.

Trying to shut these hard-working parts of ourselves down usually backfires like a mis-timed engine that creates an explosive fire hazard. Instead of fueling our internal conflicts, we can create a permanent solution. We can discover and honor the positive intentions of our misinformed parts. The key is to befriend these parts and help them discover a new job description, which expands our world to exciting new leadership possibilities.

The first steps to a truce that will create inner peace and elevate our leadership abilities include the following.

  • Identify your parts and counterparts. Most people enjoy this self-discovery process. It helps to name your all parts. E.g., My Peacemaker part opposes my Challenger part. Because of the way our brains process information, my clients say it helps them to allow pictures to emerge of their parts and counterparts.
  • Discover the basis for each part’s struggle for dominance. What are your parts trying to protect you from? What are their greatest fears? What are their unmet needs?
  • Identify how you can reassure each part of you that you recognize and respect their concerns and are taking steps to meet their unmet needs.
  • Patiently help each part understand that you are now an adult and have many more choices and skills than when the part emerged. This opens the door to the part’s willingness to co-design a new job description.

The diverse parts of your personality will either propel your journey to peak performance or sabotage your leadership. The above steps will help you identify your parts so you can manage internal conflicts, which challenge all women leaders.

The Role of the Woman Leader’s Limiting Beliefs

Western culture and most families often socialize girls to deny or hide their personal power and healthy assertiveness. Girls are frequently told in subtle and direct ways that they are less capable or valuable than males. Because women leaders in politics and CEO positions are still rare and because male leaders are more likely to select other men for leadership roles, many women are programmed to believe that men will continue to dominate in executive positions. This message is carved in a corporate stone when women leaders are recognized, promoted and paid at a lower level than their male peers.

Are you a woman leader in a male-dominated environment? Do you want to be a stellar role model for emerging women leaders while you serve as an exemplary leader? If so, it’s especially critical that you identify and challenge the limiting beliefs of your parts. One of the most valuable women’s leadership success tips I can give you is to counter any internal parts that try to convince you that you’re not as worthy or capable as a man.

Women’s Leadership Coaching

Leadership Coaching is a proven way to help you create the peaceful, collaborative internal environment that is essential to your success. The leadership rewards of self-awareness are so endless that almost every successful woman leader advises emerging leaders to “hire a coach.”

The average ROI (return on investment) of leadership coaching is over 500%. Click here to complete a short application so I can contact you for a complimentary 20-minute consultation. If we decide we’re a good fit as client and coach, we’ll discuss a coaching agreement. I’m looking forward to getting to know you and being of assistance.

© 2019 Doris Helge, Ph.D. as interviewed on “The Today Show,” CNN and NPR. Certified Master Leadership and Executive Coach Doris Helge is author of bestselling books, including “Joy on the Job,” Doris has helped hundreds of leaders like you meet every challenge you’re facing. Click here to gain the Women’s Leadership Success Strategies you need.

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About the Author

Doris Helge

© 2019 Doris Helge, Ph.D. at www.WomensLeadershipTips.com Doris Helge, Ph.D., MCC is a Certified Master Executive Leadership Coach and author of bestselling books, including “Joy on the Job.” Click here now to sign up for your complimentary Leadership Coaching Consultation.

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