Leading Holistically: What It Means And Why It’s So Critical For Women

Posted: November 28, 2018

A McKinsey study reveals that while women hold high aspiration of professional growth for themselves, only 58% actually believe they will get there. Contrast this to the 76% men who believe they will make it to the top. There is a wide gap between our self-belief and our desire for excellence and achievement.

Women face certain unique dilemmas that men don’t.

“Should I quit my work to bring up my children or stay and get that promotion?”




“They just assumed that I won’t be able to travel and sidelined me for this new role.”

 “Should I change my behaviour? I have received feedback that I am too aggressive but how else will I get the respect of the sales team?

 “I am an integral part of the brand management team. A critical decision on my brand was taken by male colleagues over an informal drinking session to which I was not invited.”

Expressions like these are fairly common among our circle of women professionals.

Whether it’s about making tough choices or battling an unconscious bias, most women find themselves stretched physically and emotionally. Straddling two responsibilities of home and work is by no means an easy balancing act.  It’s only natural to feel fragmented and exhausted in the process.

There are very few forums where we can share candidly without the fear of being judged. Even organizations that invest in learning and development focus more on generic skills and techniques. Moreover, women leaders hesitate to talk about their challenges in front of their male colleagues.

I am a single parent bringing up a special needs child and I have to leave office by 5:30pm. I ensure that nothing is pending at my end. The culture in our office is to work late and I know they pass comments when I leave on time. I have started feeling guilty too but I can’t discuss this with anyone at work. I don’t want them to think that I am unprofessional.” a senior woman executive remarked during one of my coaching sessions; the anguish in her voice was unmistakeable.

What women need is a safe place to share and discover themselves. Our challenges are unique and we need opportunities to voice them uninhibitedly. In being heard with empathy we find some alleviation of the struggles we go through. However mere ventilation of our concerns is not enough.

Am I taking charge of my life?

The way out of the pulls and pressures we reel under, is to go within. We need to delve deeper into who we are and what we believe in. The process of self-discovery requires the integration of all aspects of our being –  the spiritual, physical, intellectual, relational and emotional.  When these are aligned we are able to lead effectively with our whole being

As we unpack the layers of conditioning and narrate our life experiences we start evaluating ourselves closely. We embrace all thoughts and feelings as part of ourselves without judgments or labels. We recognize its impact on our physical and psychological well being. With curiosity we question the legitimacy of beliefs we have held till now. We choose to discard limiting beliefs. We re calibrate relationships that may not serving us.  As we shed the unnecessary, we create mind space to build new and empowering beliefs. This helps us shift our actions to ones that are more constructive.

When we work towards embracing different parts our being, we gain greater access to enabling emotions such as confidence, inspiration, equanimity. Leaning on such a powerhouse puts us in control of our demanding circumstances, rather than the other way round. As long as the process of integration of ourselves is stronger than our feeling of fragmentation, we will navigate our responsibilities with considerable ease.

We do have to contend with a culture of patriarchy, systemic biases at the workplace and the demands of our traditional roles as mother, wife, daughter-in-law and homemaker. These issues will not disappear tomorrow, they will take their own course. Am I taking charge of my life, is the only question we should be consumed with. It’s about time we went past our limitations, societal misgivings and stereotypes to tap into our enormous potential. We owe it to ourselves, our children and our work.

First published here.

Image via Pixabay

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Aparna Mathur is a leadership coach and facilitator. She has over 23 years of diverse

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