Female Leaders: Are You Too “Mothering”?

One of my clients shared a feedback that she got recently: “You are too mothering.”  She was annoyed and insulted by it.  Of course it was said to her by a male colleague, who is single and has no kid.  She felt completely unseen and unappreciated for it.

(By the way, Men, by chance you are reading this: If you ever say this to a woman, especially one who is a mother, you must be prepared for a fight, and know that this comment will sting for a long time, no matter how right you might be.)

What are the qualities of “mothering”?

As a mother, myself, I would define it as:

-  Caring, loving, dedicating of ourselves

-  Being responsible 24/7: doing chores, all the grunt work, what ever it takes to be there for…

-  Protecting, providing, serving

So when does a leader (or a mother) become too mothering?

-  She starts to believe that the org can’t do without her, so she takes on too much.  She becomes the martyr.

-  She can’t stand the thought that her people might FAIL, so she tries to overly protect.  She becomes the saint.

-  She exhausts herself.  She is an emotional wreck.  She forgets her own needs, wants, and boundaries.  She becomes a victim.

The combination of Victim, Martyr and Saint is like the iceberg to the Titanic, for female executives.

So LADIES!!! You get to keep your “mothering” qualities.  That is how women lead.  That is what makes us great.  Because we are willing to care deeply, that we would do anything to serve.  And we are creative, nimble, and a great juggler of many balls.  We are a success story.

BUT you don’t get to carry a cross, or nail yourself on the cross, or even ascend into heaven while you are leading your organization.

We need you healthy, whole, trusting, confident, and having clear boundaries and judgments.  So that you can be the great leader that we know you are.

I salute you.

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