Every Generation…And the One Before and After
There is a song with the lyrics “every generation blames the one before”. If there isn’t a song which says “every generation resents the one after”, may be there should be. This is seems to be especially true when it comes to women in the workplace or in leadership roles. Whether looking forward or backward in time. Up the ladder or down. Whether looking across the table, around the table, or around the world, how we as women lead in the organizations we are in – whether those organizations are personal or professional – determines how all of us succeed.
Regardless of our generation, our age, or any other demographic factors, we have a responsibility to lead from our strengths and our experiences. It is not a responsibility to use those experiences as obstacles to success but as stepping stones for more success. Step on them and use them to step UP and OVER what would get in our way. Just because others have cast stones (boulders, mountains, oceans, craters…) in our way and because our paths were not easy, it does not mean we in turn have to make it more difficult on those who follow. If anything, the path we blazed should stay cleared. Otherwise what was the point of blazing that trail?
If we say we are blazing trails and clearing paths for even playing fields, then we certainly cannot turn around and put in place other discriminatory practices and methods. Why begin to act like those whom we fought so hard to supplant. We are better than that! If we aren’t, well we have no business being leaders.
I attended a conference for women in business some time ago. Although the conference was not advertised as a minority conference, for all intents and purposes it was just that – a minority business women’s conference. I would estimate less than 20% of the attendees were male and/or white, which is unusual for any event not specifically organized and marketed as such. The dynamic of this event was interesting to participate in and to observe. Rather than a celebration of advances, power, and milestones. it was an angry event. The keynote speaker gave a bitter, angry speech about being held back, and held down. The speech was about what was wrong with the way things are and the way things were.
What the speaker didn’t address was that every person in the room was accountable for the future. For future behavior, for empowerment, for promotion, for not discriminating, for a level playing field, for making sure the world of today and tomorrow was about leading well and leading fairly, based upon equality of capability and ability and qualifications. Instead, the keynote speaker spoke of this as being a time to get retribution for all the wrongs which had been done. It was a time to reverse roles and give the other side – all men and white women – the same experiences. Equality was not the objective until after retribution had been achieved.
On a smaller scale I’ve witnessed the same type of resentment, anger, or bitterness from women in senior leadership positions within organizations toward the up and coming women in the organizations. Even women business owners who have every reason to support the women they have hired into key professional and leadership roles in their organization seem to sabotage and work against their own team members to make sure the path isn’t “too easy”.
What have we all been struggling for? Perhaps we have forgotten it was to change things so that it would be no more difficult for a woman to compete and succeed than a man. We envisioned a day when race and other demographic factors would be immaterial in the competitive arena. We saw a time when being credible and capable meant equal consideration for a job. May the best person win!
No one is entitled to discriminate against any other group due to any demographic characteristics. As leaders of organizations – personal and professional – it is our obligation and duty to lead without bias and without “payback,” without making sure “it isn’t too easy because it sure wasn’t easy for us”. The golden rule of doing unto others as we would have done unto us certainly applies to leadership and to dealing with each other in business. Woman to woman, we need to step up and set an example once again for what leadership is and what it isn’t. Leadership is non-discriminatory. Leadership is blazing a trail and making sure others can follow us and that they do! Leadership is about making sure the next generation can give credit to the one before. recognizing its sacrifices and achievements. Leadership means allowing those who follow to take the next step on not only the foundations that have been laid but also on each new level so we can all keeping building stronger organizations, more success.
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