Breaking Through Your Inner Glass Ceiling

Women leaders are succeeding not by adopting the traditional command-and-control leadership style but by drawing on what is unique to their experience as women. According to a study conducted for the International Women’s Forum, men and women in similar leadership roles make the same amount of money and experience roughly the same degree of work-family conflict. But when they describe their leadership styles, there are significant differences.

Men are much more likely than women to view leadership as a series of transactions with subordinates, and to use their formal position and control of resources to motivate their followers. Women, on the other hand, are far more likely than men to describe themselves as transforming followers’ self-interest into concern for the whole organization and as using personal traits like charisma, work record, and interpersonal skills to motivate others.

Women leaders practice what the study called “interactive leadership” – trying to make every interaction with coworkers and followers positive for all involved by encouraging participation, sharing power and information, making people feel important, and energizing them.

This willingness to step outside of the command-and-control model of leadership supports a belief that there is strength in diversity of leadership styles.

Yet, so often, I hear women wanting to model their leadership behavior after the command-and-control style of leadership rathering than uncovering the leadership style that builds on their own unique strengths.

Why is this?

As women, we carry within us, “an unconscious template” that has been defined for us, by others, for generations. This template is encoded with what society thinks is possible, impossible, and what is taboo for women. It tells us what feminine qualities are perceived to have value, and which attributes should be discarded.

The rules and expectations for the Inner Glass Ceiling are so far ingrained into the subconscious that it sits outside of our awareness. We often believe we are doing what we need to do and following a road map for success, when in reality we are often following a default and unconscious template that includes self-imposed limitations, hesitation, second-guessing ourselves, and values of the patriarchy.

We can modify this template, and break through our Inner Glass Ceiling, but in order to do this…

We need to stop looking outside ourselves…and begin looking within!

Every woman, and human being for that matter, has an Inner Glass Ceiling. This is the part of ourselves that we put away because we believed it didn’t fit into the society in which we were living. 

There is a cost to avoiding our Inner Glass Ceiling. 

Many women carry feelings of undeserving, surviving through pleasing and working hard to not offend others, and hiding our true emotions. When we hide these and other aspects of ourselves, we are not living as whole authentic beings. Our personal power is damped down. And, we often make ourselves small so that we don’t offend others.

We may also be blind to the way we carry the patriarchy within us and this can unconsciously show up in our relationships with ourselves, towards men, and especially with other women.

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