I had read through my emails, caught up with the members in my department, and poured myself a fresh mug of coffee.
This was a small military command – no more than 20 people. We were all required to attend “the morning meeting” every, single day.
Twenty people, one hour, five days a week – over 2,000 man hours a year spent discussing things that could have been summed up in half an hour once a week.
We had recently moved into new office spaces and, in an effort to preserve the industrial gray carpet installed by the lowest bidder, the officer in charge required mugs of coffee in the conference room be no more than half full.
One fateful day, my mug was full
Conjure up a surreal, Captain Queeg-esque moment, minus the strawberries, and you’ll be right there with me.
I’ve shared that coffee mug story with real warriors – ones who’ve been shot at, survived helicopter casualties, seen their friends killed – and each of them chuckle at the absurdity.
The situation could have been funny but it was merely a symptom of an organization run off the rails by micro-management and mistrust.
The unfortunate result was discouragement and rock bottom morale. It was eventually referred to as an example of how not to lead in the officer classes taught at the Center for Naval Leadership.
When women lack leadership skills, particularly in a male dominated organization like the military, it poisons the perception of all women as leaders and perpetuate a stereotype.
I’ve worked for real women leaders
They are not battle axes, control freaks, micro-managers, hand-ringers, or histrionic screamers. Oh, I’ve worked for them too, but I’ve also had the honor and pleasure of serving under women who lead well.
The ones who are able to release their need to feel important.
Who focus on helping people get their job done – the hallmark of servant leadership.
Who know leadership is love in its truest sense – modeling, mentoring, and encouraging others to become greater than they thought possible.
Bullies are not leaders
Are you a leader, or simply in a position of leadership?
If you stifle others because you are afraid they will outshine you, you may lack the confidence to lead.
If you are afraid of your people, and must force and coerce them to show respect in an effort to feel important and in control, you may lack the vision to lead.
If you are consumed by the trappings of authority, engineering ways to display your power and position, you may lack the maturity to lead.
A leader inspires a worthy vision, encourages others to grow beyond her, empowers her people to achieve success, and never makes anyone feel unimportant.
Leadership is love
It’s not rules, regulations, and manuals.
It’s not a mission statement on a laminated card.
It’s not the tight control of other people.
Leadership is the ability to inspire the best in others, and cheer them on as they soar. It is the desire to grow people beyond you, successfully.
- List three women you admire.
- Next to each name, list five traits, characteristics, or behaviors you admire about her.
- Notice the pattern that emerges.
I doubt what you admire is their need to make you feel small. Great women leaders aren’t threatened by other women.
What are three specific things you can do (or stop doing) right now that will cement your role as a leader worth following?