With leadership comes challenges: Three women I admire

25 Jan

I know some great women leaders doing great work. And they have leadership challenges.

These women are my friends and colleagues.  They are  smart, strategic, savvy women who have committed themselves to a variety of causes  that make the world a much better place to live in.

When we go out for lunch or dinner our conversation often turns to work .  Over appetizers,  we share the challenges that we face.  During the main entree, questions are asked . By dessert,  advice is being given.

Because,  I spend a good deal of time thinking about , reading, pondering  the subject of leadership ;  it should not surprise you that I tend to view most workplace challenges through that lens.

I wanted to share three of my friends challenges because I think that they are  commonplace and still in need of solutions.    And I love a good challenge.

Meet the ladies/ Read my mind

Lady Diva #1- Does my outside match the inside

She is second in command at her non profit and a member of the senior leadership team.  Her work links together many facets of activism: lobbying, education,  and coalition building.   She oversees a staff  of 3-5 employees and is committed to their growth and advancement.

Her challenge: She feels like she is hitting a soft wall in terms of advancement  because of her position as # 2 in the organization.  She wants to increase her  external leadership role and become more visible.

To see what happens click on the title above.

My questions for her:

  • What is the role that she wants to have externally?
  • How does that role fit in with overall direction of organization?
  • Define the characteristics of that role. ( speaking opportunities, papers, blog postings,  authored pieces, etc)
  • What does she want her personal brand to be?
  • How does getting out there in very short spurts help her brand? What does she need to do in the long haul to build her brand?
  • How does she build a strategy for leading her staff , managing her boss?

Lady Diva # 2 –  Look, there is a new leader in town

She is an entrusted senior staff member to very high level and high profile individuals in the social justice movement.   Her path to her current position was not direct.  She has a reputation  as a “closer” and is called on to handle large scale, high visibility projects.  She is well respected and valued by the  principals of organization and entrusted with assignments that have  very little structure.  Consistently, she produces outstanding results.

Her Challenge: She wants to establish an internal leadership identity that has a clearly defined role that will bring job satisfaction and continued growth.

My questions for her:

  • How does she create clarity for her position that has her asserting her own direction but also receiving guidance from the higher ups?
  • What possible issues does she see in her relationship with the higher ups that needs to be addressed?
  • How does she ask about those needs and the expectations of the higher-ups without undermining her credibility with them ?
  • Should she or her boss outline her new leadership role to the other staff?
  • How does she address her leadership learning curve and maintain momentum moving forward?

Lady Diva # 3- Staying on the balancing beam

She is a member of  the leadership team and oversees a staff of 6-7 employees.   Externally, she is considered a  leader and expert in her subject area.  Internally, she is considered middle management .  She balances not only management;  but also, program development of new initiatives and growing her current programs.

Her challenge:   She has pressure to balance internal management responsibilities with external leadership roles and opportunities.

My questions for her:

  • What is the leadership identity she wants to maintain externally?
  • What is the management she wants to have internally?
  • When does she say “NO” in order to become clearer about her priorities?
  • How does she outline expectations, timelines to her staff ?
  • How does she outline expectations and  timelines to her peers and her own management?
  • What is the marriage of her existing external leadership reputation with her internal middle management role?

With leadership comes responsibility and challenges.   Often it’s not well defined.  Sometimes it comes with a title and sometimes it doesn’t.  I think  it’s a very personal thing. Thinking of yourself as a leader and defining what that means is the first step.

Let me know what you think.



One Response to “With leadership comes challenges: Three women I admire”

  1. Kimberley MacKenzie February 20, 2010 at 8:58 pm #

    Erika – Thank you. What a great blog. Love this post. I will now watch your blog with great interest. Nice to meet you!

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