Time to challenge yourself: what is it you want from life?

Conscious women also make conscious leaders!

Highly educated, qualified women hesitate to take on executive management roles. How can this be? It’s manifested when a suitable role is announced; women do not clearly sign up to apply, do not visibly come forward. For many board members and HR officials it is not even clear if this highly qualified woman has that kind of ambition at all!

Do we, intelligent, hard-working, talented career women, still secretly suffer from the Cinderella syndrome? Are we all waiting en masse for the fairy godmother to stop by and send us to the ball? Have we internalised biased opinions on how a career is supposed to turn out? That if we work hard enough, and achieve good results, they will indeed come knocking on our door? Or do the opportunities that occur simply not suit us? Are we still too busy with building our dream house, with our beautiful children, with that great guy, with caring for our parents? Might next year suit us just a little bit better? All of the above is true. But their is one reason that to me strikes out the most: we hesitate because we don’t know what we want from life, from our jobs and from our leadership roles.

Raise your consciousness. Reflect on your leadership purpose.

Okay, so powerful women do occasionally hesitate. Nothing wrong with that, basically. As long as you don’t confuse hesitation with insecurity or unwillingness! I really believe that all too often, we think that we are insecure, or we let others talk us into thinking this. Bullshit. We are simply not aware of what we really want from life. We don’t take enough time to reflect! 

Once in so many years you enter a new phase of your life. This doesn’t always have to do with external changes like the arrival of children. A new phase can also be marked by an inner urge for personal growth. Use this new phase of your life to grow your leadership!

Ask yourself questions such as ‘what’s my leadership purpose?’, ‘how do I want to live my life?’ and ‘what do I want to mean to other people?’ Recognise certain things you’re longing for, in relation to your career, what you want as a mother, as a partner, and all other roles from which you derive happiness.

Distinguish between your own desires and those that have been instilled in you.

I long to make a social impact, for example. Everything I do fits with my purpose of guiding women leaders to wholeness. This is my contribution to a more balanced and enriched business world and society. This is what I love to do.

Also on the weekends, when I choose to. Because I know WHY I am doing this for. Regarding motherhood, I really needed to take stock in order to figure out what kind of a mother I desire to be for my children. Not ruled by society’s standards, but by my own. Being a daily taxi service to and from school was not part of this at all. But playing tennis together, bedtime rituals, and stimulating my children’s personal development was a major part of it. And I know I will have to rethink this again when either my children or I enter a new phase.

Think about who you want to be, what you want to signify, and what would be a meaningful life for YOU.

Ingrid Kersten, Managing Director of Accenture, calls this having an inner compass. She says: “I think that all of us still regularly struggle with the balance between work, friends, family and time for yourself. And that is clearly not only a simple question of organising your time or giving priority to a particular objective. I know of myself that I am ‘on’ at work, for example, I don’t do it by halves and I enjoy it. But outside of this, I also want to give meaning to my other roles. I want to know myself well, and know my purpose, but also simply know what makes me happy and what devours my energy. Particular being okay with this has been the key for me to use my inner compass successfully. It enables me to set boundaries and make decisions that contribute to what I feel is important, but also how I take on the journey and who I want to be.”

My advise to board members and HR officials when stimulating women’s careers.

I advise board members and HR officials to challenge their highly qualified women employees to contemplate themselves and their personal leadership skills, so that they can take on their next leadership role from a place of greater awareness. Conscious women who know what they want also make conscious leaders!

How to develop from being ‘one of the guys’ to your personal leadership signature.

It’s okay not to be sure right away. It’s perfectly normal to hesitate and to express this. This is not a sign of insecurity, it’s actually a sign of personal strength. It is also an invitation to get to know yourself better. In particular who you are as a woman! In my line of work, I often see that career women in our patriarchal society* frequently experience that feminine qualities are not permitted. Qualities such as presence, giving meaning to something, reflection, empathy. In the earlier part of our careers we learn to suppress our femininity and become ‘one of the guys’.

Anja Vijselaar, Director of Petersburg Consultants: “I received the ultimate compliment from one of the board members, namely that our collaboration was great because I had the same competences as all my male colleagues. With the pleasant incidental circumstance that I looked like a woman. That was actually the first time I thought ‘hmm, there’s something up with that.” 

We are often completely unaware about how we let ourselves be ‘masculinised’. But at what price? If you ignore your femininity and are unaware of your feminine power, this will lead to a sense of imbalance in your life. And you continue walking around with a chronic bellyache, the feeling of never being enough, fearing a burn-out. You might decide taking a ‘step back’, to find out this doesn’t make you happy either. And before you know it you’re stuck, and you have the idea you’re just going round and round in never-ending circles. Hesitating every step on the way. This doesn’t simply go away as time passes. You need a pro-active approach on restoring your own balance. Starting with raising your awareness.

Ignoring our femininity leads to a deep, unconscious imbalance.

How to lead in balance with greater character and more wisdom.

1. Balance your masculine and feminine strengths first

Start with increasing awareness about yourself. Balance in masculine and feminine strengths is an important quality for senior and executive roles. Motivate yourself to develop such an integrated leadership style. This will enable you to lead your business with greater character, better balance and greater wisdom.

2. Make conscious career decisions

This enriched level of awareness will also help you make conscious decisions about your career. No longer just using the opportunities that come along, but creating opportunities for yourself and thus taking matters into your own hands.

3. Develop your own leadership signature

The women I work with in The Women’s Leadership Program are already well aware of how their careers challenge them to grow internally. They no longer wish to copy the masculine leadership model unquestioningly. They long to develop their own, unique leadership signature. These female leaders are ready for what I call a “Journey to Wholeness”. Wholeness is a way of experiencing yourself and your life. In this process it’s crucial to get to know yourself better as a woman, knowing what you want from life and developing balance in your masculine and feminine strengths. It’s a journey that will bring you closer to yourself. A journey that frequently starts with ‘I just don’t know …’.

* The patriarchal society is a society in which men exert power in all areas of politics, economics and religion. 


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