The Three Cs of Women's Leadership by Milka Milliance

How might we become more courageous, confident and collaborative leaders during a time of upheaval? As women, are we our own worst enemy? Are we the helpless victims and co- conspirators of our own demise? I silently asked myself this question, as I sat in the audience at a women-in-leadership forum in the southeast of the United States. 

The dominant perspective that morning, amongst the female bankers leaned towards the Sheryl Sandberg, COO of Facebook, point of view. As women we need to “lean in” be more ambitious, raise our hands and not shy away from new opportunities. In her bestselling book Lean In, women are assigned full responsibility for their career trajectory. However, what I heard that day took it even further than us taking responsibility for our careers.  What I heard was that most of the challenges women face rising to leadership positions, were undeniably their fault.  Among other advice the young bankers received that morning, they were told to stop “whining” and start drinking more “wine” by four out of the six panelists. They were all women who were in the C-suite of their organization. Several of them were CEOs of their local community banks. 

As I sat there, I reflected uncomfortably about what I felt was internalized sexism and misogyny that was now being passed on to these younger female bankers. I wondered about whether the patriarchy was outside of us, after all, an external dominant force that oppresses us, at every turn or a highly complex and well-oiled machine with all the parts and gridlocks to move our thought patterns in the appropriate direction – self-blame. Learning to rationalize self-loathing and minimizing one’s feelings of worthiness is not hard when you are reminded every day that you are less valued, through un-equal pay and have to prove your self before you are promoted while your male colleague is promoted on his potential. 

What allegiance do we have to ourselves and to each other? What responsibility do we have to the future generation of women, our daughters? Are we willing to stand up and fight for them, the way others did for us to be where we are now or tell each other to stop “whining,” the way some men in the professional world have traditionally talked down to women?  These are questions we must ask ourselves individually and collectively because the current state of the world requires that of us. We owe it to the future generation of women to ameliorate our shared burden of being the “second sex.” Can we imagine a future in our likeness?

Globally women control $40 trillion of consumer spending worldwide and receive $6 trillion in earned income. Women have more power than they give themselves credit. I often ask myself if women will ever come to terms with this reality or remain victims of their own “success?” This perspective of success still upholds a patriarchal system that many women are just dissolving into, rather than changing it from within so it can also evolve into their likeness.

Milka MillicenceAre women’s actions a reflection of their thoughts, beliefs and values?  As individuals is there clarity and alignment?  Do women sincerely believe that their needs and desires can become the standard? Can women imagine a new world in their image or is that only the domain of the “stronger” sex?

In my capacity as a coach, I advise my clients to expand their self-perception to re-imagine a world also made in their image. This is harder than many of us would imagine because from birth we have been conditioned to accept the world, our environment and the perspectives that we have about others and ourselves, to be exactly as they are and have always been. 

To imagine and then to labor in the creation of one’s imagination is believed to be the domain of the artist, the inventor and perhaps even the “fool.” Fool, because to put something out into the world, to take a different course of action or route is to risk being vulnerable and therefore to many it is a risky proposition and often seen as foolish. However the success stories of our greatest leaders are often grounded in those who were willing to take a risk and even look foolish, brining their vision into the world.  

In a world that seeks greater homogeneity, daring to be different requires courage, confidence and the collaboration of thoughts and action to successfully make a lasting impact.  During times of change, having a blueprint for success ensures a return to the basics, fundamental and timeless principles.  For me, it is starting with the 3Cs of Leadership: Courage, Confidence and Collaboration. These are the first steps to dismantle and re-create a world that honors everyone’s humanity. It starts first with ourselves, do we dare to move beyond piecing back together, the shattered glass, and instead create a newer and better mirror to see our full reflection?

Author: Milka Milliance, Founder/CEO, We R Artemis Leadership Inc.
October 2018

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