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Ladies! Are You Sheep or You Are Dragons?

“Are You a Sheep? No, You’re a Dragon…So Go Be a Dragon!”

That’s a powerful quote from one strong female to another in the blockbuster TV hit “Game of Thrones.”  In the process of re-watching the series  I’ve admired the evolution of the female characters from stereotypical victims to strong leaders in their own right.

Please note there is a lot wrong with the portrayal of women on Game of Thrones, however the evolution of the female characters is a compelling and central part of the storyline and part of what keeps me watching.

This made me think about my own evolution as a female leader.  Over the last 10+ years I’ve learned a lot about business, HR, people and organizations but I continue to go back to some basic lessons which I’ve outlined below.

1. Evolve

The leader I was is not the leader I am today. Like many of you, I learned a lot about how to be a “great” leader before I was a leader but all that reading I did was hard to remember in the early days of my leadership journey.  I was scared and nervous that if I messed something up I would be demoted or fired.

When I operated in a place of fear I made some good decisions and some bad decisions. Nothing that destroyed anyone’s life but there were ramifications and I’ve learned from those.  Most importantly though I’ve realized that the “best” leaders are those who can evolve.

2. It’s Tough to Be a Female Leader

When I started work I felt there was no barrier to what a woman could do except her own limitations – ability, desire, intelligence.  I’ve come to see that this is not true.

Although women have made great strides in the workplace, in many cases our workplaces function like its 1980.  Too often women and minorities bear the brunt of this broken system. For too many of us the way we work does not fit our lives.

As a female leader I try to create and support organizations that better fit people living and working today, not 50 years ago.

3. Figure Out Who You Are and Stand Firm

It took me a long time to realize the leaders I admire could only be strong because they knew who they were – their values and their core beliefs.

When you know yourself you speak from a place of strength and confidence.

4. Set Boundaries

This is one I’m admittedly still working through. As women, society conditions us to appease others, that we should be available, that we should be “nice” and all the other stereotypes you’re already familiar with.  Those expectations make it hard for us to set boundaries.

When its not an emergency (and in the workplace true emergencies are rare – most of us aren’t racing a heart out to a life-flight chopper) I’ve had to build up my boundary muscle:

  1. “I agree this is a concern, can you give me a day or two to do some research and get back with you? What does your schedule look like later today/tomorrow/this week?”
  2. “I’m eating my lunch right now, mind if I circle back when I’m done?”
  3. “Yes I can absolutely take that on but it will mean that I have less time for xyz. Is that an okay trade-off?”

Keep in mind none of these phrases work if you don’t have a good reputation and relationship with the person on the other side of the conversation.  Which leads to the fifth and final lesson I want to share with you today:

5. Relationships (outside of work) Matter

Remember my earlier lesson about knowing yourself?  When you know yourself you know what matters most to you.  In my experience, relationship with friends and family rank high and you should prioritize those.  When you have a stable life outside of work, it puts all the work stuff into perspective.

Don’t neglect the relationships that matter most to you.  When the work is done you should have a rich life to go home to.

Now go be a dragon!

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