Ice Queen Syndrome – How Faux Confidence Can Hurt Women in Leadership

Queen Bee, the Ice Queen. We’ve all met one or worse yet, worked for one. I recently came across a slew of articles analyzing the role of the these characteristics in the office ecosystem. It’s a topic I’ve discussed at great length both in my book, Leading Gracefully and at speaking engagements across the US and abroad. So, why did these articles in particular catch my eye? They weren’t about the problems associated with being pegged as the Ice Queen, they were about embracing her!

Needless to say, I was shocked. Women have been forced into these stereotypes for decades because of discriminatory work environments, and that’s not a tradition I think we should embrace. As I began reading the arguments posed by pro-Ice Queen authors, I realized that the core of the argument in favor of being the most unapproachable person in the office was about exuding confidence.

Let’s get one thing straight: Women should not have to trade likeability for confidence.

I developed the Feminine Leadership Model based on leading with the ideal balance of our masculine and feminine traits, but confidence is neither. Women can embrace feminine qualities that make them kinder, more caring, and more empathetic – all the while carrying themselves with the kind of confidence that will get them the respect they deserve. And let’s be real, being icy and bitter only exudes faux confidence, at best. I teach my female clients that showing empathy, leveraging your vulnerability, and letting your colleagues know you care are all real ways to become a more effective leader. These methods are all antithetical to being the office Ice Queen, and lead to a healthier and more successful team dynamic.

Discriminatory and male-dominated work environments may be to blame for the existence of the Ice Queen stereotype but, by and large, the victims of the aggressive and bossy female leader are other women. And in fact, one of the top complaints I hear from my clients are stories of how their female bosses actively working to sabotage their career. Typically these are stories of female bosses who micro-manage which makes it difficult to gain the skills necessary to advance or don’t advocate on their behalf, limiting their visibility which hurts their chances for promotions. This practice hurts the overall cause for those of us who are interested in closing the gender leadership gap.

I believe it is vital for women to strengthen their professional relationships with each other in order to close this gender gap. Here’s a passage I include in Leading Gracefully: “When we become less judgemental, and more forgiving of women who may be slightly different than us, it can lead us to work better together – and give women the boost that they need to face the myriad other challenges they have to face in the workplace.”

Your Working Life Podcast Interview

I had the pleasure of speaking with Caroline Dowd-Higgins on her Your Working Life podcast recently. We spoke about my book, Leading Gracefully and how both women AND men can benefit from embodying “feminine qualities” of leadership, like vulnerability and empathy, and how these qualities are those that people are searching for in their leaders today.

Take a few minutes to enjoy our lively conversation about how to Lead Gracefully.

Leaning into Our Dormant Power through Feminine Leadership

It’s great when I hear from women in the business/entrepreneurial world that resonate with my message. Learn Savvy’s Jen Aubert was one of those women who “get it” and I was thrilled when she invited me as guest on the new Learn Savvy podcast, where we spoke about the dormant power that lies in every woman, which I speak about in my book, Leading Gracefully. Having accessed my own “dormant power” many years ago while climbing a 40 foot tree and subsequently jumping out of said tree (while harnessed, of course!), I realized that this is a unique gift that women possess, yet many are either unaware of it or don’t tap into it as much as they could be.

This power lies in our second chakra, and is where our creativity and sexuality resides. It’s where life is created, but it’s also an immense source of power for women. But because of all the body shaming, objectification, and pressure to conform, our relationship with this part of our bodies is usually one that brings up a lot of shame, pain or even embarrassment. Rarely do we view it as a source of great creativity or power that we can utilize to our advantage. And yet tapping into it myself, I realized that when we do, we are much more tuned into the bigger picture, and we’re able to be strong, confident, and creative as a result.

So that’s the topic du jour in my lively conversation with the lovely fierce and feminine Jen Aubert as we explored what it means to be a feminine leader in today’s world.

Check out the full conversation on Learn Savvy’s podcast here: http://www.learnsavvy.co/dormant-power-feminine-leadership-interview-monique-tallon-fstu005/

Women in Leadership with Angela Mezzetti

I had the honor of being a featured guest on the Women in Leadership podcast with Angela Mezzetti. We had an in-depth discussion on how women can lean into their natural strengths, like using vulnerability as a strength, and how when we let go of the need to micro-manage and trust our team, how that can inspire creativity and innovation, some of the key ingredients to success in today’s competitive market. We also talk about the Queen Bee syndrome and how women have to do better at supporting one another and helping each other up the ladder.

Listen to the full interview here: http://womeninleadership.ie/2016/07/monique-svazlian-tallon-leading-gracefully/

Leading Gracefully Toward Global Change – Women Like Us

The Women Like Us Foundation supports women’s leadership for Gender Equality and Social Justice in the areas of Sex Trafficking, Homelessness and Social Justice. I was honored to be interviewed for their blog by my good friend Molly Lyda, where we spoke about how I stepped into my own leadership, the lessons I learned and how I help to empower other women to their own authentic, feminine leadership, and how I believe that we can create global change when more women embrace their strengths and own their voice.

Read the entire blog piece here.

Three Things Hillary Clinton Can Do to Appeal to More Voters

In December of 2015, Hillary Clinton had a 31-point advantage nationally to Bernie Sanders in our current primary election. In less than six months, she has gone from being pretty much guaranteed to be the Democratic nominee to barely squeaking by with her tight wins over Bernie in Iowa and Nevada. How did this happen? How could she have gone from being the favorite to now having to fight tooth and nail to stay ahead in the race? I’m sure her campaign is asking themselves the same questions. Nobody, and I mean nobody (including the Sanders campaign I’m sure) expected this to happen. Nobody expected TRUMP to be doing so well either. This has been, thus far, one of the most surprising (not to mention entertaining, thanks to CNN and Fox News) primary campaigns ever run in the United States.

I myself am a Bernie supporter for all the reasons we love Bernie — his authenticity, his passion, and the fact that he is calling for a political revolution in this country, which I think we really, really need. But I’m a woman, and I should vote for Hillary. The thing is, I want to vote for Hillary. She has more experience than God; her diplomatic resume is second to none. But like most people who have decided to go the Bernie route, we sense there is something that’s just not quite authentic about Hillary. There’s a certain ‘je ne sais quoi’ that’s hard to pinpoint, besides the fact that majority of her funding comes from Wall Street and she voted in favor of the Iraq war.

Here’s the thing about her: Hillary is unlikeable. I think it was a big problem for her in 2008, and it is still a problem. Unfortunately, Hillary is stuck in the double bind most women leaders find themselves in–if you talk too loud, you sound shrill and whiny. If you point your finger, you come off as too aggressive. Not to mention the fact that most people still equate the word leader with masculine traits. Our unconscious biases that get in the way don’t equate leadership to women–period. Now if that’s not a difficult wall to climb, I don’t know what is.

But she has climbed that wall and broken the glass ceiling. She’s running for President of the United States! That is a great achievement as is. But it’s not good enough. If she wants to get elected, she needs to be likeable. She needs to win the hearts of Americans young and old, black or white, gay or straight. And to do that, she needs to appeal to more voters in the way that Bernie appeals to young people. She needs to learn how to be a graceful leader (which is what I write about in my new book, Leading Gracefully: A Woman’s Guide to Confident, Authentic and Effective Leadership.)

Here are the top three things I think Hillary can do to gain back her lead in the polls:

1) Be Authentic:
Whenever Hillary speaks or smiles, it feels really…polished. Like she has rehearsed that smile a thousand times. We know she has rehearsed those lines a thousand times, because when she’s asked a random question, she sounds less rehearsed and more like a normal human being. You have a feeling that you don’t quite know who Hillary Clinton really is. She’s a fantastic debater, I’ll give you that, she is quick on her feet and she does great under fire. Which makes her a great states-woman. But the problem with all of that is that we don’t want our politicians to act like politicians anymore. We want them to be people, like you and me. We want to feel like they relate with our problems, our worries, our deep desires. We want them to be more authentic. Which requires you to drop the mask and allow people to see your weaknesses. In one word, it takes vulnerability. But that’s a really hard thing for someone like Hillary Clinton, or any woman leader or female CEO for that matter. It goes back to the gender bias that women have to deal with all the time (and for men who think that is just an excuse, you try being a woman in the business or political arena for one day and then get back to me). We already have all the cards stacked against us, so we feel like we have to be that much more prepared for whatever is headed our way. It’s a tricky line to walk, but if more women, including Hillary Clinton, would dare to let down their guard and be vulnerable, it would open up the opportunity for connection. It would allow people to relate and feel safe. This is something Bernie does flawlessly and why I think he is so appealing to voters, especially young voters.

2) Communicate With More Empathy: Hillary Clinton talks like she cares about income inequality, racism, Wall Street corruption, etc., but you also get a sense that she cares about those things because they are hot button issues in this election. And they would buy votes. When Bernie talks about those same issues, you know he really cares. And it’s not only because he shouts and seems angry about the whole situation. It’s because he TRULY cares. You can hear it in his voice, you can see it in his body language, and you can also see it in his track record. The man has been walking his talk for 30 years. And while Clinton has fought hard for a lot of the same issues, she’s also wavered in her loyalty. She’s taken money from the big banks, she doesn’t want to bring back safeguards like Glass-Steagall (which her husband repealed and is what eventually led us to the 2008 global financial crash), and yes, she voted for the Iraq war. You get a sense that she doesn’t have the same type of empathy for the working man or for the single mom who’s living on minimum wage. And if she does care about all these things, then she needs to show it. Which goes back to #1 – communicating with empathy takes vulnerability. It takes telling the other person how you really feel, no matter how weak it makes you look. And that’s something I don’t think Hillary Clinton is very comfortable with.

3) Talk about the We, not the Me:
If you listen to Hillary speak, it’s always about what “I” can do for you, what “I” will do when I’m president, what “I” believe we should do. When Bernie speaks, it is always about the WE. He has built his entire campaign on WE. He never talks about himself as being the Savior we are all waiting for. He talks about political revolution. Which refers to people working together to bring about change. His message and his vision are about bringing different people with diverse backgrounds together to work collaboratively. What Hillary represents is the old paradigm, a very top-down approach that everything from big companies to factories used to organize themselves. Well, maybe she didn’t get the memo, but in the 21st century and with the birth of the Internet, its all about collective movements of people working together toward a common cause. That’s what brought about the Arab Spring, or in this country Occupy Wall Street. It’s what people are craving for — they want their leaders to unite people around a common cause. In order to do that, you have to talk about the WE — the collective. We already elected our Savior…Barack Obama, and look how far that got us.

The qualities I listed above could be considered feminine traits, which I believe are the qualities people are looking for in their leaders today. And it’s something that more women leaders need to feel comfortable embracing in order to be likeable, authentic and effective, which will also eventually helps us close the gender gap. Emulating our male counterparts doesn’t have the same impact as leaning into our feminine strengths like vulnerability, empathy, care, intuition, and humility to name a few. I believe if Hillary Clinton develops the courage to embrace her feminine strengths, she could win the nomination by a landslide. Let’s see if she reads this article.

You can read this article on Huffington Post as well.

The Importance of Sisterhood

Photo Credit: Margot Duane

Two weeks ago I had the honor and privilege of attending the WisdomWomen Visionary Gathering together with 150 women from around the world, held at one of the most beautiful and energetically powerful places in the world, The Esalen Institute in Big Sur, CA. When I first heard about this weekend retreat, I knew it was somewhere I needed to be. Not only did it exceed my expectations, it reminded me of why sisterhood is so important for the advancement of women at this time and why we need so much more of it in our lives. As I continue to integrate the learning, the deep, meaningful conversations, and the beautiful connection to the Feminine and to Mother Earth, I wanted to share some of reflections with my readers and followers.

WisdomWomen was birthed at the Wisdom 2.0 conference back in 2013 by founder Michelle Stransky. Over 100 women attended an open discussion about what women need to be able to step into their leadership more fully and change the world. It was a moving discussion that led to the eventual creation of the WisdomWomen gathering that took place at Esalen.

The invitation for this gathering was clear—if you feel called to make an impact in the world, then join us to co-create a new reality together! With 200 women on the waiting list, clearly there was a need for this type of gathering, a sort of collective yearning amongst women to come together as a tribe, to support one another and connect with each other in a meaningful way. It was the same yearning I’ve felt for quite some time as an executive coach and trainer specializing in empowering women—women are aching to come together and make a difference in the world.

However, for many, the path to changing the world can sometimes feel like a very lonely one. And it’s not because there aren’t amazing women in the world doing some amazing things. There are a ton of them. It because changing the world often feels like a struggle, feel difficult, and often times keeps us isolated from others. It’s also not because there aren’t hundreds if not thousands of amazing women’s networks, associations and circles available to women. There are a ton of those too. There is something else that is holding women back from really dropping into a connective place with one another. It’s something that can be difficult to put a finger on, but nonetheless palpable.

As emotional beings, women take on far more than men in terms of self-doubt, self-criticism and other negative baggage. It begins with a small whisper and if left unchecked, can grow into a loud roar. Those saboteurs tell us lies like other women are better than me, and gosh, I don’t really have anything to offer. So we hold back from introducing ourselves to that woman or to that network of women. We hold ourselves back from expressing our gifts and our ideas. We hold back our greatness.

At the WisdomWomen though, it felt like most of us were able to break free from the barriers that hold us back, whether its our feelings of inadequacy, not being good enough, feeling left out, not supported, competitive or jealous. For myself and I suspect for many women at this gathering, those barriers slid away into the night sky as we came together to perform a ritual around the blazing fire, giving thanks to the four directions, North, South, East, West, and Father Sky and Mother Earth. As we honored our planet, we honored one another, because when we treat nature as a part of ourselves, we become whole again. We come back to the truth that resides within our hearts that we are all One, all connected, interdependent beings of Love. As we entered our sacred space and sat in circle with one another, connecting with our voices and hearts, it was clear that barriers weren’t invited. And for two whole days all of us were able to operate from a place of pure connection and love, and were given the gift of experiencing what it is like to be in pure Sisterhood.

From this place we came together to connect with each others visions for the world, what our hearts know is possible for our planet and for humanity, and we shared our projects and ideas for changing the world. We began to form relationships and connections that will lead to collaborations that are yet to be known. We shared our longing for the world and what we hope we can co-create as women leaders who feel responsible for the future of our planet. We bathed together in the therapeutic waters of Esalen and engaged in healing conversations. We came together in song and dance and expressed the truest parts of ourselves. Most importantly, we came together as Sisters celebrating one another.

Upon returning back into my real life, back to my husband and to my friends and family, I found myself more openhearted than usual. I felt freer to be my true self—more soft, more feminine, more loving. I was sweeter to my husband and in turn he responded with more affection and attention. I felt more creative, compelled to express myself through writing. I was able to drop down into my intuition and felt more connected to my inner sense of knowing. In turn, I was able to give more to my clients, to my friends and family and be more present with all of them. I felt renewed, energized and invigorated. In essence, I felt more ME.

This beautiful experience led me to me to realize the importance of Sisterhood and why it is so integral we come together to support one another during this time in women’s advancement. In our crazy 24/7-wired world we can get so wrapped up in the logistics of our lives, forgetting that which feeds and nurtures us. We forget the importance of slowing down, taking stock and taking care of ourselves. We forget the need to connect with our Sisters and fill up our cups with inspiration. It’s just so essential to who we are as women!! And we need more. We need more women in the world who are able to consistently vibrate from this higher state of being. When women are able to sustain this frequency, we are a force to be reckoned with. There is no mountain we cannot move. There is nothing we cannot manifest as we step into our feminine power. Absolutely nothing.

The challenge is finding ways to form supportive circles of women sans barriers, even when we aren’t in beautiful places like Esalen. What do you think is required to do that? How can we as women approach one another and be in community and connection from an authentic and honest place? I would love to hear your thoughts and reflections as we continue the learning together and continue holding this beautiful container for each other.

How Embracing Feminine Values Will Save Us All and Create a Society That Truly Thrives

If you’ve been paying any attention lately, you know that women’s leadership is a hot topic right now. It’s about time, right?! As a feminine leadership expert and coach, I’m passionate about helping women more fully embrace their natural strengths, namely their feminine capacity, as a key to success in business and in life. Compassion, empathy, collaboration, connection, candor — these are examples of feminine traits that are preferred when it comes to success and leadership, according to a recent global survey. What would be possible if we based our definition of success and power on these values? And more specifically, what if women embodied these traits more fully?

My own experience working inside a Silicon Valley tech company taught me that contrary to popular belief, women were NOT exhibiting the character traits so commonly referred to as ‘feminine.’ To my shock and horror, most women were hiding their emotions, their passion, and compromising their ability to be collaborative and build consensus by showing up more like men. What I began to realize was that in order to stay competitive and be taken seriously in a business setting, women had been hiding their natural feminine gifts and abilities and adapting to a more male-centric model and approach to success.

This presented a big problem for me when I was given the opportunity to step into a leadership position at the ripe old age of 25. When I took a look around for a female role model I could look up to, all I saw were women acting like men, including our then-CEO, who was a woman. As an up and coming manager, I had to decide — was I going to lead like a man, or was I going to try something different? Being the rebel that I am, I opted for going against the norm and decided I was going to stay true to myself. So, on the first day of my task force meeting with a group of executives, I walked in and declared, “I have NO idea what I’m doing and I really need your help!” I was half-expecting that statement to undermine my credibility and authority, but to my surprise, it had the reverse effect.

What transpired over the following year was nothing short of miraculous. Instead of controlling all the details of the project, I built trust with my team by asking for their help and empowered them to participate fully in taking ownership of their tasks. Instead of bottle-necking the decision-making process, I empowered people to make decisions and got out of the way. I inspired my team with a strong vision and built relationships with the main players, so if I ever had a problem, I knew who I could go to for a quick solution. Through the courageous act of being vulnerable, I was able to successfully pull off one of the biggest challenges of my life: producing a 10,000 user conference for our company.

The icing on the cake for me was the end result. We had one of the most highly-attended conferences of all time, and my team came up to me afterwards and said how much they enjoyed working with me. Attendees at the conference said they felt cared for and how well organized the conference was. To me, this was validation that my experiment had not only worked, but it rocked! And that’s when it hit me. Instead of using a command control and authoritarian leadership style (more traditional, male-centric), my experiment to lean into my natural strengths as a woman are what led me to the biggest success I had experienced to date.

That’s when I came to the conclusion that the biggest obstacle to women’s advancement in business was the fact that we were trying to conform and adapt to an outdated model not very suited for the 21st century. I began to think what else might be possible if women stepped more fully into their authentic, feminine leadership. And I began to get excited about the possibilities and impact that could have on business and in the world.
Please leave your comments and thoughts below. What is your definition of success and power in the 21st century? What traits can women (and men) embrace to truly thrive? What are actions you can take to create this shift in yourself? What type of community or network would best engage and support you in creating this shift?