2 Reasons Women Doubt Their Ability to Lead

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by Stephanie Licata

One of the most impactful books I’ve read on the leadership ability of indigenous woman is “Every Day is a Good Day: Reflections by Contemporary Indigenous Women” by Wilma Mankiller, the first female chief of the Cherokee Nation.

This beautiful tapestry of writing includes the illumination of over a dozen women’s voices sharing about ceremony, governance, acceptance, compassion and leadership. It is in the voices of these women that one can draw strength, courage and wisdom.

Doubt and fear plague women of all cultures. Wilma said herself “I’ve experienced more discrimination as a woman than as an Indian.”  The cultural and community implications of indigenous woman granting power to this doubt and fear can be devastating.

What would female leadership look like in Indian Country if ALL women had the tools they needed to navigate around this fear and take the necessary actions within tribal government, education, healthcare, business and beyond?

The opportunity to break through this fear comes from understanding it the source of fear and doubt and learning how to conquer it.

As a coach and female empowerment expert, I have worked with thousands of women both in and out of Indian country that were searching for their specific voice and contribution to make via leadership, REGARDLESS of role or formal position. I’ve taken what I see are some of the top 2 reasons women doubt their ability to lead and offered some suggestions on how to conquer them.

1) Voices from the past. Somewhere, someone told you to be quiet. You may have been a little girl or a pre-teen and you had something to say. What you said was wise and valuable, but someone didn’t want to hear it. It may or may not have been a man. In that moment you made a decision that it wasn’t safe to speak or offer your views. These voices from the past impact our courage in the present.

What to do? 

  1. NOTICE that feeling of fear that comes up when you are afraid to speak up. You might feel it in your stomach or become nervous.
  2. IDENTIFY that feeling as tied to voices from the past. They aren’t hear now. Notice and acknowledge that your past is right now governing your future leadership.
  3. Create a MANTRA for yourself when you feel that feeling. For example: “This is my fear from the past. It is safe for me to communicate now. I make a difference. What I have to say matters.”

2)Our inner critic Sometimes its the voice of others, sometimes it’s actually our inner critic. It says the craziest things! “That won’t work.” “No one will listen.” “I’m not even going to bother, they will just ignore me.” As women we can fail to speak up because our own criticism of our natural value is calling the shots. We don’t step up to lead to be liked or because everyone will agree with us. We step up to make a difference. We may have to stand up in the face of NO or ignorance over and over, but leadership is about perseverance. It’s about telling that inner critic to take a hike!

What to do:

  1. Meditate. I know, I know you don’t have time. I have a solution for you! Download the app “Simply Being” on a smart phone. It’s 1.99. You can literally clear your head in 5 minute increments. In order to replace the inner critic, you have to install another voice! You are your biggest obstacle and your biggest influencer. Self-reflection is one of the most powerful things you can do to grow your ability to lead.
  2. Support one another. This can be formal or informal, but start a women’s leadership circle, even if its just a few of you gathering monthly to empower each other to speak up, to lead, to solve problems. Take turns running the group conversation and get together to create community around leadership itself.

Gathering together to empower each other’s leadership is one of the most powerful things you can do. We’ll explore this topic and others even further at our Second Annual Native American Women’s Leadership Training on June 7th 2017 at the Westgate Las Vegas Resort and Casino. Network with female leaders from tribes in the U.S. and Canada and empower yourself to make the difference you were born to make!

If you have any questions, please contact Stephanie Licata, Managing Director of Training & Business Development at 201-857-5333 stephanie@nativenationevents.org.



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