My 13-year-old daughter’s fears before her first Student Council meeting were not unlike the fears many women have. We believe we must act differently in a leadership role-saving our giving self for our personal lives and then turn around and act like a taker in our leading lives.
Bill Burnett and Dave Evans, authors of the book, Designing Your Life: How to Build a Well-Lived, Joyful Life, say, “Many people operate under the dysfunctional belief that they just need to find out what they are passionate about. Once they know their passion, everything else will somehow magically fall into place.”
William Damon, director of the Stanford Center on Adolescence, says that the reality is only one in five young people between twelve and twenty-six have a clear vision of where they want to go, what they want to accomplish in life, and why.
I personally think this is a realistic, if not healthy, statistic. Apparently, I’m in the minority.
The following 9 TED talks are, in my opinion, Must-See-TV for anyone with a young girl in their life. Each of these talks takes on one specific idea to spur either a stronger sense of self or of leadership.
Research shows the most outstanding leaders take the time to reflect. “The more girls know who they are, the more they can believe in themselves, and trust in the power of their own intellect and intuition. This self-trust is the foundation of self-confidence, the foundation girls need to assert their voice and remain resilient, to rise up as leaders - and to keep rising." - Elizabeth Perlman, founder of the intuitive writing project.
What is the best research-backed method to reflect? Journaling. Although most introverts are naturally drawn to this exercise, everyone can benefit. Here are the best tips and strategies from the industry's experts.
28 tips may seem like a lot, however, considering more Americans fear public speaking than their own death, I believe more tips are better than less.
Public speaking is a skill, not a talent. It needs to be practiced at all ages. Avoiding public speaking only exacerbates the problem by reinforcing the fear. Besides, if you never present, you’ll never realize that you won’t actually die!
Strong leadership in girls isn’t just about closing the STEM Gap, or the Negotiation Gap, or the C-Suite Gap, or even the Congress Gap. It’s foremost about closing the Leading-Yourself Gap. That gives you power.
If you can’t lead yourself, you can’t lead others. If you can’t lead yourself, someone else may try to take advantage of you.
“Between childhood and womanhood, girls encounter a phenomenon known as "losing voice," according to studies published by Harvard University."
"74% of 12-year-olds surveyed by Girl Scouts of America list "improving the world around me" as one of their favorite activities, but a lack of confidence holds them back from taking leadership in the areas of change they care most about. Only 1/3 of middle-school girls today believe they can be a leader.” - Girls Driving For a Difference -
Getting girls to bridge the gap from doubting they can be a leader to leading social change they care about, is what these 5 steps aim to do.
Rather than stacking a team with the highest IQ’s, it’s more important to create a group with talent AND social sensitivity. The best way to get social sensitivity on a team? According to MIT, ensure the team includes women.
As young, perfectionist girls grow into adult women, and perhaps mothers, we seem to be doubly susceptible to negative self-talk. So, instead of going out for a day of pampering to help you recharge - which, frankly, lasts precisely as long as it takes the nail polish to dry - consider these strategies instead. They last a lifetime!
Unwarranted criticism. Constructive criticism. Professional criticism. Mean girl behavior. Being bullied. Being judged. Being singled out. Girls lump them all together because they all feel terrible to them. So, the simplest way to escape criticism, even though it can help you grow, is to not put yourself out there in the first place. But identifying which type of criticism is being pointed at you, it’s a lot easier to handle and more likely that you’ll get back out there.
My daughter will have to play an entirely different game once she enters the workforce. She can no longer be a member of the rule police. Schools don't help us practice taking risks. They only reward perfection, and we gals love being perfect, don’t we? And so we hide behind our straight A’s. It’s safe there. Unfortunately, the more we are concerned with failing, the less we can achieve, the less we can improvise and the less we can invent. As they say - nothing ventured, nothing gained.
So here are the new rules she'll have to learn.
Praise is one of humanity’s deepest cravings. It satisfies our need for acceptance. It can give us meaning in our lives and it can help to build our identities. It’s easy to see why parents dole it out thickly to their children. However, when used improperly, the compliments can harm the very people we are trying to encourage. In fact, Dweck’s experiments showed that, sadly, the brightest girls collapsed the most.
Here's how to avoid the pitfalls of praise and, instead, motivate your child to excel!
My daughter was in dire need of some tools to help her with the difficult conversations she was having.
Conflict management is one of those traits that no one likes to tackle, let alone practice, but research shows girls, in particular, treat it like the plague. Dealing with conflict with confidence can put girls in a position where they might not be “nice” or even likable for a little while. So, instead, they avoid any semblance of conflict to maintain their “good girl” persona. That’s unfortunate because along with strategic thinking, decision-making, and problem-solving, the most successful leaders tend to show finely-honed communication skills.
Turns out, I got a few tips to throw into my own tool-kit as well!
Wanting to be team captain was the perfect opportunity for my daughter to practice the right way to negotiate. Unfortunately, she didn’t think so...
She believed, like many women, that if she just worked hard, she should be recognized for her talent. Three separate studies found that women are less likely than men to negotiate for what they want. Men place themselves in more negotiation situations and view more interactions as negotiating opportunities. They get a lot more practice in the art of asking and, therefore, a lot more comfortable than women.
My daughter learns that how you ask can reduce the stress of asking and can be much more effective.
Alexa was back but this time my daughter was ready. As author Lisa Damour says, “As a culture, we do a terrible job of helping girls figure out when they are mad. As far as girls know, they can either be a total doormat (Cinderella) or flat out cruel (Cinderella’s step-sisters). We rarely help girls master assertion, the art of standing up for one's self, while respecting the rights of others. We send the message that good girls are nice all the time and then we are somehow surprised when girls act out in unacceptable ways.”
Not only do studies prove that girls who spend a lot of time comparing themselves to their friend's looks, likes, boyfriends and life receive a heavy hit on their body image, the famous “swimsuit study” suggests that these girls also have less confidence and lower school performance.
My daughter is learning that envy is very different from jealousy, competition, and even admiration. Her friend isn't a friend, and she isn't jealous, she's resentful. Most would say it's just middle-school girl stuff. However, the research says that if my daughter doesn't learn to understand these differences it could cost her her confidence into adulthood.
Adam Grant says that leveraged well, procrastination can have powerful benefits like enhanced creativity and huge leaps in critical thinking. This approach is especially good for unsolved tasks.
However, how should I explain this to my kids so that they don't feel they can continue allowing their rooms to look like bottoms of bird cages in the name of creativity? How to ensure they don't start to believe forgetting or putting off projects and assignments is their ticket to intellectual brilliance?
The problem is that this isn't the kind of procrastination that's beneficial. Procrastination only helps divergent thinking and incubation as long as you don't wait too long which, ironically, often happens when you are disorganized.
Goldilocks procrastination. That is the goal.
A friend recently asked me, “What if your daughter doesn’t want to be a leader when she grows up?”
It’s a question I have heard before. It’s the, “Should we even be focusing on female leadership if most women eventually end up choosing to lean out?” question.
So what do I think? I think the premise of this question is entirely wrong. I don’t believe becoming a leader only occurs when you get ‘that’ position or they crown you with ‘that’ title.
In fact, given how different the economy is from when I grew up, I don’t think my daughter has any choice but to be a leader.
High self-esteem is internal. When we have it, we feel less dependent on the approval of others. We even get more comfortable with disapproval. Despite what you may think, self-confidence doesn’t take a lifetime to build. It can be harnessed and tapped with this simple 15 min exercise. Kids can do it too!