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What’s Holding Your Daughter Back from Being an Effective Leader?

Are leaders born or made?

(2-minute read) Are leaders born or made? What do you believe? Regardless of how you answered, you’re right! Some people come into this world with an innate desire to inspire and encourage those around them. But, if we aren’t born a leader, that doesn’t mean we have no shot at becoming one. What it means is that we have to work at tapping into our potential for leadership. We need to believe in our own value and trust the fact that if we put in the effort, we have the power to lead, to make a positive impact.

Sure, it takes more than a winning personality to unite a group of people and help them achieve a common goal. It takes grit – perseverance and passion. At GAALS, we’ve tried to help thousands of girls see their value and what they bring to the table in terms of leadership. Along the way we learned that many of the girls simply aren’t comfortable serving as leaders. When asked why, we hear the same answers over and over again.

  • I fear being seen as bossy when I tell others what to do or how to do it.
  • I want to make everyone happy. And sometimes, I just do that even if I know it won’t help us achieve our goal and/or it isn’t the best for the group.
  • I get anxious about how I make others feel. If I don’t use other’s ideas, I don’t want to make them feel bad.
  • I worry that my decisions as a leader will affect my relationships. When I have to make a decision for the group, like selecting one person to do something, I worry that others who I didn’t choose will get mad. But even worse is if it affects my friendship. I don’t want to fight or lose a friend.

These common thoughts are alarming given that the girls who feel this way are the ones who are faced with being tomorrow’s leaders.

As parents, in order to nurture our daughter’s ability and/or desire to take on leadership roles, we must:

  • Instill a sense of responsibility
  • Educate them on the social and emotional aspects of being a leader.

As a mother, I find it overwhelming to think about where to begin. But then I take a step back and think about what can I borrow from how we  nurture our GAALSters to shine as leaders.  

We play games where each girl is tasked with leading – making decisions, explaining directions and more.  After the girls have all taken a turn, we discuss their experience.  At first, some girls are apprehensive about sharing their feelings of fear and anxiety.  They assume they are the only ones who feel this way. But they quickly learn that others share similar thoughts. So they are instantly relieved and recognize that they are normal.  They also walk away with strategies and tools they need to feel more comfortable in leadership roles.

By using these same strategies at home, assigning leadership roles and then openly discussing the experience, you can validate your daughter’s feelings. You can provide her with other perspectives and approaches that will help her embrace leadership, rather than dismiss it.

Here are just four things to focus on when talking about and modeling effective leadership with your daughter…

Have a positive attitude. If a leader is not positive, then it is highly unlikely that her team will be either.  Through associating positivity with leadership, the role seems a lot less daunting. And by explaining that a team looks to their leader in times of trouble for support and guidance, girls realize that leaders do not have to be viewed as scary or intimidating. I’d find it hard to believe that someone would be labeled “bossy” when they simply offer a few words of encouragement. With an approach like this, leaders are seen as uplifting and inspiring.

Always try your best. Leaders are selfless. Regardless of how they are feeling physically or mentally, they lead by example by putting the team’s needs first. While this isn’t the easiest part of being a leader, it’s important for our girls to realize that actions speak louder than words. Showing up for the people who need us, and being loyal, dependable, and present, leads to a ripple effect that makes it hard for the team to act any differently in return. In fact, a team is greater than the sum of its parts. So when leaders give 100%, they often get much more than that in return.

Overcome adversity. Don’t let the team believe that failing is anything but an opportunity to learn from our mistakes. FailING does not necessarily equate to failURE unless we let it. A leader helps the group work together to identify areas of improvement, create an action plan, and ultimately rise above whatever is holding them back. With the right perspective a leader helps turn adversity into a challenge to overcome, rather than a threat to shy away from, which is a valuable lesson for any team to learn.

Never give up. Leaders know how to persevere. They are well aware of the fact that anything worth having in life rarely comes easy, but that the inevitable journey it takes to reach success is sometimes the best part. The harder you have to work to achieve greatness, the better it will feel when you and your team finally get there. But that success is impossible when we let the people leaning on us believe that giving up is even an option. Being an effective leader means never giving up on your team, and more importantly never letting your team give up on each other.

Not all leaders look, act, or behave in the same way. Different people have different styles. And that’s a good thing!  But it’s important for girls to realize that how people behave in this role is what distinguishes an effective and supportive leader from a power hungry, domineering one.. By focusing on the above qualities, girls can avoid some of the pitfalls leaders experience, while at the same time developing their own effective leadership style. 

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