Women distrust other women leaders, too, and often seek to undermine their influence. That is sad.
Joshua and Caleb were already tribal leaders when they spied out the land of Canaan. As spokesmen for their people, they returned with a glowing report, urging everyone to follow them into the promised land. But ultimately, ten other spies convinced the Israelites to go the opposite direction — with disastrous results. As in, everybody died. Joshua and Caleb were great leaders. But the people didn’t trust them.
I was thinking about that while reading my library book, See Jane Lead: 99 Ways for Women to Take Charge at Work by Lois P. Frankel. On page seven, Dr. Frankel lists on ten negative reactions to women leaders that she noted in her research on female leadership. I recognize these reactions from my experience in leadership. If you are also in leadership, you undoubtedly have experienced these signs your group doesn’t trust you.
Signs of Leadership Distrust
- Being called names (usually behind their backs) that assault their femininity.
- Anger that is expressed blatantly or passive-agressively.
- Having their ideas openly challenged, rather than built on.
- Having their ideas overlooked only to be repeated as original by men in the group.
- Being excluded from future meetings.
- Having information that enables them to make good judgments withheld.
- Challenges to their “right” to lead (i.e. “Who does she think she is?”).
- Later being given more menial assignments that are designed to keep them in their place.
- Being placated.
- Being openly derided.
If you have been in leadership for any amount of time, I’m sure you have experienced these. What surprised me the most in my nearly two decades of leadership in ministry and business, is that women distrust other women leaders, too, and often seek to undermine their influence. That is sad.
There are many tangible ways we can support the women leading us and help broaden the opportunities for future women leaders. Here are some ideas I came up with.
How to Trust Women Leaders
1. Speak publicly and privately about women leaders with respect. Whether they lead in politics or business, community or church, large groups or small, their position signifies achievement and influence. Even when we disagree with their methods or decisions, we can respect the title.
2. Discuss differences of opinion fairly. I am all for a great debate. Let’s stick to the facts and figures, though, rather than resort to emotionalism or character attacks.
3. Give credit where due. Give praise often. Take responsibility every time. Good leaders male and female understand that the credit belongs to the team, but the blame belongs to me.
4. Communicate openly. Being closed-fisted with the facts is a serious form of corporate dishonesty that cannot be tolerated in any organization. Holding back the entire story undermines teamwork at best, and ultimately steals innovation and revenue from the entire company. Strive for as much transparency across the entire organization to build trust and respect 360 degrees.
5. Promote qualified women. I don’t merely mean give them more job responsibility and a higher paycheck, though that is great. Do it. But I also mean verbally, socially, and financially support and promote women around you who are going against the flow to make a difference.
No matter where in the leadership journey we are in, there are many ways we can build trust in leading women. Can you think of more ways to support the women leading around you?