7 Ways to Kill the Leadership Aspirations of Everyone Working for You

I recently spoke with friends who described how the culture of their firm, where senior leaders were known for working punishingly long hours, was discouraging them from pursuing career paths into leadership.

So it was with interest that I came across Business Insider’s article about 7 examples of the incredible work ethic of Google CFO Ruth Porat.

I’m all about celebrating outstanding women leaders, especially in industries like tech that continue to have so few of them. But far from feeling motivated by the example this leader is setting, I felt the crushing dread of what it must feel like to work for her. Imagine coming to work every day for a boss who:

• Made client calls from the delivery room during the birth of her child.

• Threw her back out during a meeting, laid down on the boardroom table and gave her full presentation.

• Is available to employees and clients at all times of the day and night.

• Has made it clear that she doesn’t believe in work-life balance.

Now imagine being an aspiring leader in her organization. Would you choose to be in the succession pipeline for her role? Or even to be one of her direct reports? Or would you run for the hills?

By the time I finished reading the article, I had mentally re-titled it “7 Ways to Kill the Leadership Aspirations of Everyone Working for You.”

We lead by example, whether we know it or not

Later that week, during a leadership webinar, I spoke with a Senior Vice President of Operations in the grocery industry about the factors that prevent women from “taking their seat at the leadership table.” As it turns out, she had recently had an eye-opening experience.

“I was working long hours and always taking the lead,” she confessed. “What I thought I was displaying in the workplace as a positive role model was actually the complete opposite. I was making it more difficult for women to take a seat at the leadership table.”

The SVP changed how she was working and set herself a more realistic work schedule. She soon received feedback that women in her organization felt more confident about taking their own seat at the table, which only confirmed her suspicions that we lead by example, whether we know it or not.

“What kind of example are you setting for women in the workplace?” this senior exec challenges you to consider. “What are you telling those around you about what it takes to be successful in the workplace as a woman?”

It’s time for some honest self-reflection. I have been asking myself this question, and encourage you to, too:

Could my work ethic and leadership drive be demotivating others?

As you strive to lead, climb and thrive, never lose sight of the example you’re giving to those who follow you.

Jo Miller

Jo Miller is a globally renowned authority on women’s leadership. She’s dedicated two decades to helping women advance into positions of influence by leveraging their leadership strengths. Based on her work with hundreds of thousands of women, she developed a pragmatic and powerful roadmap that guides women to become the leaders they aspire to be. Jo shares this proven process in her book Woman of Influence: 9 Steps to Build Your Brand, Establish Your Legacy, and Thrive (McGraw Hill, 2019.)

Jo is CEO of leadership development, consulting and research firm Be Leaderly. Learn more about her speaking engagements at www.JoMiller.com and follow @Jo_Miller on Twitter.

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