Eleanor Roosevelt believed that women are natural leaders because they are nurturers. Consider how we raise children. We’ve known for a very long time that it is best to give them challenges, let them make and learn from mistakes, discipline with fitting, appropriate consequences, and grow their minds with education and experiences. Sound familiar? That’s the definition of modern leadership to the letter. We know that empowered, involved employees are an asset. Those to whom we dictate, who are simply told what to do and when, are just warm bodies. Machines. We don’t want machines, we want innovators.
So lead like a mom. Obviously don’t treat your reports like children, but know that adults can benefit from a nurturing environment and supportive management just as much as young people. But bringing your motherly instincts to the workplace can feel risky and uncomfortable. Why? Despite these concepts being introduced decades ago, when Mrs. Roosevelt was still alive and gracing us with her wisdom, it has only entered into conversations about women in leadership in recent years. Any belief that women could go to work and embrace her femininity seem to have vanished as females descended upon the workplace en masse. Enter the pantsuits of the 80’s and 90’s, the image of the competitive bitch, the ice queen who left warmth at home in favor of a membership card to the Good Old Boys Club.
I would like to think we’ve moved beyond that, but, for the most part, the professional women I know who are Gen X and older are still afraid to switch out of dictator mode. I have a boss who believes everyone lower than her on the totem pole is there to stay and should function as an obedient instrument. Shut up and function. Tell them what to do, reprimand them when they don’t… they’re not smart enough to contribute ideas or grow beyond their current position. I have proved that theory wrong with several employees since moving into middle management and she’s had to eat those words.
Will millennial women do it better? We face a different type of reproach for being ourselves than women did at the end of the 20th century. Now it’s not so much that we are being too girly, it’s a broader complaint that we’re needy – in it for the participation ribbon and pat on the back. We are ridiculed for our expectation that every member of the team shares in workplace leadership and ownership of the objectives. We demand respect. And, important News Flash, if we don’t like how we’re being treated, if we aren’t being given a change to grow and contribute, we’ll just leave. We aren’t a generation looking to passively do as we’re told for 30 years for the same company.
So, if you want to move your business into the future, don’t be afraid to mom-up. It will be critical to hang on to the younger generation because their ideas and efficiency will keep you afloat. Nurture your team. Give them a loose rein. What if your entire staff grew up to be at least as competent as you or even more so? That’s real leadership and it’s good business.
I have a triumph song – Green Day’s “Still Breathing”. I’m sure there are much “better” songs, more accomplished
instrumentals, better lyrics… but Green Day is perfect for me because their
songs have spanned my entire teen and adult life. They are just juvenile enough to take me back
to easier times before I ever experienced bipolar disorder, political edginess
that reminds me I’m not the only one struggling with modern American, and songs
like “Still Breathing” that strike all the right chords. Yesterday and today I have found myself
blasting that song in the car, sing-screaming at the top of my lungs. I’m struggling right now. I have that foggy “what am I doing here?”
feeling. The “I’m not being true to
myself and failing those around me” inner monologue. “When I die, I will have regrets because I’m
too chicken shit to drop everything and find out what else is out there.” Then depression and the low-energy, unproductive
days it brings with it. I’m typing this
at work because I just can’t force my fingers to minimize the window and open
the work I need to be focusing on. I’m
the manager… I need to pull it together.
But, I will. That’s the glorious certainty I have to hold up, like a trophy declaring victory. After roaring to the dashboard over my lunch break, I’m feeling the burn of my heart again. I’m still in there. That song drags up out of me, past the repressive clouds of uncertainty, the truth I know for sure – I am the strongest goddamn person I know. My personal hell has been mine and mine alone because, no matter how close someone else is to you, no matter how much they care and how much their support is critical, they still aren’t in your head. They can’t do it for you. No one can. They can stand on the edge of the cliff cheering while you hang on by your fingertips, but they can’t reach out a hand to help because you and your thoughts are light-years away. You have to grab the edge of that cliff yourself and pull your body up to the sunlight, safe from the fall. I have. All of you have… and we will again! No matter what the dark voices in our heads may try to tell us, we are indestructible.
In the shower this morning:
Who starting calling it a shower? To shower is a verb – who made it a
noun? When did people first decide they
need to stand up to bathe? Maybe when they
started understanding germs and no longer wished to soak in their own
filth. Such waste and effort probably
would never have crossed anyone’s mind prior to indoor plumbing either, for
As I understand (correct me if I’m wrong) it’s rather common
in other countries to have sit-down tubs with a “sprayer” instead of standing
all the way up. Maybe Americans have
outgrown bathtubs. We came to the New
World, oozed ourselves out all over the vast land, had plenty of room to build
large houses, and we sprawled. We sprawled
and towered and established the expectation that we would have monstrous abodes. We can fit big, tall tubs and shower units into
these large spaces.
When you put bacteria in a petri dish, it will continue to
replicate and increase its population until there is no longer room. Then, through a fascinating series of
chemical reactions, they know to knock it off.
Apoptosis, maybe? Am I channeling
that correctly from a chunk of biology coursework lodged in my brain? Is that what we’re doing? When we’ve maxed out our space, we won’t be
able to rely on chemical programming to stop procreating. We’ll have to rely on our common sense. Heaven help us.
Did I just wash my hair with my daughter’s shower gel?
When your mental health is less than perfect, you can easily
get pulled into whirlpools from which it is hard to swim free. My current whirlpool is building from the
nearly impossible task of absorbing and responding to the goings on in the
United States while maintaining sanity.
I am troubled, to put it mildly, by politics and the behavior of my
fellow Americans. I have always believed
that one person can make a difference.
We are obligated to take action.
However, as soon as I delve too deep into the issues or, heaven forbid,
feel the urge to act, I start taking in personally. The anger grows within me and I can’t derail
my thoughts. I can’t let go to be
productive at work or joyful with my family.
It starts to consume me.
Then the bipolar symptoms rev up. I get manic, staying up to late, maybe signing
up for events. I try to balance my other
responsibilities with the activities I think could help save the world. My brand of bipolar does not come with long
or particularly damaging manic episodes.
This might last 48 hours, perhaps 72.
Long enough to show up for rallies or sign up for phone calls. Then I get tired and cancel. I fail to complete what I started. And then, as you might imagine, the guilt
sets in. Once again I have done
nothing. I haven’t completed what I
started out to do. My children are
watching me ignore the devastation around me and to do nothing is to side with
the enemy. I am useless.
Then the depression episode.
My depression episodes are much longer and much more debilitating. But that’s a story for another time,
particularly since I’m in one now. Not a
good time to dwell on my inability to control my brain. The topic I am concerned with now is that of
how to be a productive citizen and maintain my health. This is the whirlpool. Around and around… feel healthy enough to
engage the world, try to take action, take it all too hard, cop out, feel
ashamed, work through the depression, feel healthy enough again to engage the
world… on and on. There are other such
whirlpools involving career competitiveness, education goals, domestic projects…
but the funnel I’m drowning in now is that of civic participation. Advice welcome.
It’s incredibly late and I have a job and kids and chronic exhaustion… but first, let me see if I’ve got this blog set up right. Posting in 3… 2… 1…
I plan to get raw about world issues… also mental madness, middle management, meaning and mediocrity, and feeling like a 16 year old stuck in a the life of a 30-something. Both satisfied and seeking, I am living the dream… but only during those times in which the dream is adequately defined. That struggle is real to me and many of my fellow xennials. I am a well read, well educated, relatively intelligent woman and there are real issues that we all need to talk about just a bit more. I am qualified to launch those conversations and will not shy away from doing so. Although I intend to be real and unfiltered, this will not be a “drink wine n’ whine” mommy blog. Bring your brain and your pain. Hopefully something I write will ring true or inspire.