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.
Earlier this year, Kevin Roberts, the chair of the advertising company Saatchi & Saatchi said that “I don’t think [the lack of women in leadership roles] is a problem. I’m just not worried about it because they are very happy.” He also went on to say that the debate on this was “f*#&ing over” implying that women had made their choice willingly. It’s no surprise that quickly afterward, he announced his resignation.
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, I don’t think my daughter has any choice but to be a leader.
Neither does Jessica DiLullo Herrin the CEO & Founder of Stella & Dot and author of Find Your Extraordinary. “You are a leader, and the world is awaiting your instructions. This is true whether you manage a team in a company, lead a classroom, or run a household. It’s also true even if you have no official leadership position at all. You don’t need to be in the top box of an organizational chart or president of the PTA to be a leader. Regardless of your current role or position, you are always leading the people around you. You lead long before you have a title that spells it out.”
Given this new premise, I do believe my daughter has a choice to become a good leader.
Put simply; I believe in giving my daughter the gift of You, Inc.
If we look at ourselves as an “entity,” this concept starts to make more sense.
As DiLullo Herrin says, we deal with people daily. How do we interact with them? Do we deal well with conflict? Do we operate with integrity? Do people look up to us?
There is also a non-people side to You, Inc. How do we look at opportunities? How do we weigh and make decisions? Do we take risks and when it doesn’t work out, how do we bounce back from adversity or failure? How do we develop resiliency? Do we face down our fears and walk through that wall of fire? Whether someone else lit it or we just need to get to the other side to achieve something we want, we’ll have to be brave.
Nowhere in this list is how to run a meeting, how to write a performance review or how to manage earnings’ estimates. And yet it sounds pretty leaderly to me.
There are also protectionist reasons for a parent to nurture You, Inc. in their child. From bullying on the playground to not receiving an equitable wage, there are insidious landmines they will need to navigate. They will need to self-advocate.
But mainly, the reasons for instilling You, Inc. are opportunistic. Can our children see juicy opportunities presented to them and courageously take a leap? Can our children see the world, not as a scary jungle but, instead, as a personal hunting ground?
Like, Bethany Mota.
“What are you watching?” I asked while peering over my daughter’s shoulder at her computer screen.
“You seriously don’t know Bethany Mota?” she replied.
When I professed my ignorance, she schooled me on her story. When Ms. Mota was 13 (my daughter’s current age) she was bullied at school and, feeling ostracized from her classmates, she started to post fashion and beauty YouTubes to escape the stress. She rapidly gained followers.
“Like a million followers!” my daughter’s mind boggled.
Try 9.5 million followers. Business Insider estimates that Mota’s on-line “relentlessly upbeat and bouncy” persona is now netting her approximately $40K a month. This doesn’t include her partnerships with JC Penny, Forever 21 and Aeropostale, nor her Dancing with the Stars appearance. All at the ripe old age of 20 years old.
This young woman gave herself the gift of Mota, Inc.
Or like Brittany Wenger.
Inspired by her cousin’s breast cancer diagnostic process, she created her own breast cancer diagnosis app. She researched, developed and tested her program which can detect 99 percent of life-threatening tumors and with it, won the Google Science Fair in 2012.
At 19-years-old, she gave herself the gift of Wenger, Inc.
I offer these extreme examples to make a point.
Even if your children aren’t wonder-kids changing the world, technology is unlocking the earning potential and value of all kinds of assets like skills, spaces, and material possessions.
Rachel Botsman and Roo Rogers, the co-authors of What's Mine Is Yours: The Rise of Collaborative Consumption, call the people who take advantage of these new market spaces, Micro-preneurs.
It seems like just yesterday we were guaranteed life-long employment and establishments looked after us. To be successful in this new arena, we need to embrace the freelance economy and the new playbook that comes with it. There are opportunities out there for sons and daughters that didn’t even exist five years ago let alone when we were kids. We need to encourage our daughters to jump into this new arena with both feet.
The first step is understanding it’s no longer necessary for some entity or person to anoint us “leader.”
Leadership means more than a title or a position. Leadership means followers, for sure, but it could look like YouTube followers or just a slew of people running to keep up with you.
It also means that we look out and stand up for ourselves. It means that we control our own destiny and write the ending to our own stories.
You, Inc. is the gift that keeps on giving.