Dare to Lead Like a Girl, How to Survive and Thrive in the Corporate Jungle by Dalia Feldheim
Leadership consultant Dalia Feldheim offers a fresh, well-researched consideration of groundbreaking leadership methods that incorporate what she defines as “feminine qualities:” Empathy, self-care, work-life balance and gratitude. Using examples from her own experience and those of other women, Feldheim demonstrates how “leading like a girl” can build success, respect and a healthier work environment. She offers her “5P model” of leadership – purpose, power up, perspective, people and positivity – which you can use to cultivate productivity, employee engagement and better relationships, and to become an inspiring, empathetic boss.
- Women leaders should use an empathetic, feminine approach based on the “5P model” of leadership: “Purpose, power up, perspective, people and positivity.”
- Purpose – Find what motivates you, and set your goals.
- Power up – Manage your energy through self-care.
- Perspective – Break out of limited behavior patterns to embrace adversity with confidence.
- People – Cultivate healthy relationships with others and yourself.
- Positivity – Lead with emotional intelligence and gratitude.
Dare to Lead Like a Girl Book Summary
Women leaders should use an empathetic, feminine approach based on the “5P model” of leadership: “Purpose, power up, perspective, people and positivity.”
Obsolete notions about gender still cause many people to assume automatically that leaders should act assertively and impersonally. They believe effective leadership means embodying such traits, which are typically labeled as masculine qualities. This is not surprising, because historically most leaders have been men, and many of them have taken an emotionally cold approach to leadership.
The value that society places on the boss with the “iron fist” has led to a workplace crisis. Employees are unhappy when their supervisors fail to treat them as individual human beings. Such resentment has led to an increase in harassment, bullying and toxic work environments.
The time has come to re-evaluate which qualities make sound leaders and to appreciate leadership traits that people more often associate with feminity.
Sadly, many people view the qualities typically associated with women – such as empathy, compassion and warmth – as unfit or even inappropriate for leaders. However, a 2019 Harvard Business Review article reported that women who lead with these attributes outperformed men as more effective, top-rated bosses.
“Leading like a girl is leading from the head and the heart – leading with compassion.”
Workplace culture would improve if more leaders shifted to a compassionate, empathetic management style. To improve your impact as a boss, your work-life balance and your sense of empowerment as a leader, follow the 5P model of female leadership:
Purpose – Find what motivates you, and set your goals.
While working as a brand manager for Proctor & Gamble in Israel, Dalia Feldheim found her purpose: empowering women. Feldheim was working on a specific sales goal: Increase P&G’s sales of feminine products to young women. She started with women who were serving in the Israel Defense Forces (IDF). As a former IDF platoon commander, Feldman empathized with women soldiers about shared female concerns, such as having nowhere to keep their sanitary products dry.
“He who has a why to live can bear almost any how.” (Frederick Nietzsche)
Feldheim’s compassion for young female soldiers and her desire to empower them led her to create P&G hygiene packs, which included a dry compartment for period-related products. The packs were a huge hit and secured P&G’s majority market share in Israel.
To find your purpose and boost your potential for success:
- Consider your history – Write out your past accomplishments and life-changing lessons.
- Search for deeper meaning in your stories – Consider why certain events feel important and why their lessons resonate.
- Identify repeating themes – For example, do you often find yourself trying to protect others or to bring various communities together?
- Write a first draft of your purpose statement – You might write, for example, that your purpose is to connect people to one another so everyone can benefit from being part of a stronger community.
- Write down your strengths – What are you good at?
- Write down your passions – What draws you naturally, without any external motivation?
- Ask yourself what your community needs – What do you want to change in the world around you?
- Find connections – Can you use your strengths to address issues that matter to you? What can you uniquely offer?
- Rewrite your purpose statement – Update it to fit your strengths and desires.
- Ask friends for input – What do those around think of your intended purpose statement?
Use your purpose as the primary motivating force for defining your goals. According to the Harvard Business Review, women leaders achieve their goals with a greater success rate than men because they have a greater capacity for self-reflection when they’re part of a team and less concern about potential failure. Keep those qualities in mind as you take six steps to identify and articulate your goals:
- Ask what you want to do – Avoid listing activities because you think others expect you to do them.
- Identify goals that align with your strengths and passions – Draw from your desires, not someone else’s projections.
- Create a vision board – Use clippings from magazines and downloaded photos to make a collage showing where you want to go.
- Self-reflect – Be honest with yourself as you consider which areas of your life need improvement.
- Write down your top three goals – Make sure they are specific, sustainable and within your abilities.
- Start with baby steps – For example, if your goal is to go to the gym more often, start going at least twice a week.
You can’t achieve your dreams if stress overwhelms you. Carve out time for yourself and for self-care.
Powering up – Manage your energy through self-care.
To meet your goals, prioritize attaining a healthy work-life balance. You can’t have empathy, a relaxed mind, focused drive or the inspiration to be a great leader if you’re cranky, tired or stressed.
Working women, who also take on the majority of child care and housework, need a healthy work-life balance to survive and thrive. Sadly, most don’t value that balance until they face a crisis, such as illness or burnout. Feldheim understands; she became pre-diabetic and developed other symptoms that she attributes to excess stress and a lack of rest.
“If you manage how and where you direct your energy, you’ll lead a healthy lifestyle.”
Take time to slow down and prioritize caring for your body and your health. Find your inner, healthy and happy leader in six steps:
- Breathe – Meditation through breath work activates and balances your nervous system.
- Watch what you eat – Aim for a balanced diet. Cook with quality ingredients. Stay hydrated.
- Touch – Physical contact, like hugs or massage, reduce pain and discomfort and release positive brain chemicals such as serotonin.
- Recover – Sleep at least eight hours every night and take restful breaks throughout the day.
- Exercise – Movement improves your mood, immune system, memory and connection to your body.
- Take time to do nothing – Work on feeling present in the moment. A present mind can reduce stress, regulate emotions, increase focus and release trapped creativity. Let your mind wander to gain new insights and develop the mental strength to face any difficulty.
Perspective – Break out of limited behavior patterns to embrace adversity with confidence.
Some people fear they don’t measure up to other people’s opinions, some fear failing and some feel they don’t deserve any form of success. These irrational beliefs can stem from difficult experiences and often cause negative repercussions in people’s choices or relationships. Face your fears now, therapists advise, so they don’t hold you back. This will help you grow from past traumas.
“There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine.” (Marianne Williamson)
Dalia Feldheim overcame her fear of failure by taking a deep dive into her upbringing. She discovered that her parents’ constant praise made her believe that any negative feedback was a sign of failure. She noticed, however, that avoiding criticism impeded her progress and career growth. Releasing that fear allowed her to grow as a person and as a leader.
You can identify and overcome self-limiting beliefs in five steps:
- Delve into your past to uncover the “activating event” or events that caused you pain or discomfort as a child. That may be the source of your fear.
- Identify what irrational belief your mind has created, supposedly to help you avoid similar pain in the future.
- Step back, and take an unemotional look at your life. Ask if this belief has affected you negatively and if it could have an impact on your future.
- Challenge the validity of your beliefs, and determine if they are reality-based.
- Create new “empowering beliefs,” and imagine new thoughts that will serve you better. For example, try out the idea that failure means you’re learning and growing.
Facing adversity requires mental fortitude, but with this fresh perspective about your fears, you can step into challenging situations with confidence. When you face a new challenge, settle yourself so you feel calm and centered. Separate yourself from a stressful situation to view it objectively and avoid succumbing to anxiety.
Maintain your healthy routines so you have the energy to deal with difficulties. Don’t keep tough issues to yourself. Ask for advice from your support system of trusted friends, family or colleagues. Play to your strengths. Ask yourself: What do I do well that could help address a pressing problem?
Don’t shy away from difficult conversations. Every conflict holds opportunities for growth. Enter every conversation with the goal of working with the other person to find a solution that benefits everyone. Listen before you speak; validate other participants’ reality and focus on understanding their needs. The people who challenge you may present obstacles at first, but if you can establish a sense of mutual cooperation and work with them to achieve goals you share, they can become useful allies.
People – Cultivate healthy relationships with others and yourself.
Prioritize your relationship with yourself. You can’t inspire joy in others without making yourself happy first. As Professor Adam Grant wrote in his book Give and Take, leaders must give and take to succeed. Those who can enjoy giving and can take without guilt – balancing self-love and selflessness equally – build the most positive, effective work environments.
“When you are caught in emotion, your message is simply less effective.”
Cultivating healthy relationships with your peers, partner and family means loving yourself and valuing your independence. Being a good partner and parent while having a career requires this balance. You can’t have everything, so set more holistic, long-range goals, and redefine how you think of success:
- Don’t aim for perfection – Learn to accept things as good enough.
- Schedule quality time – Set aside time to be alone and time with your family.
- Ask for help – Say what you need.
- Speak up at work – Advocate for work-life balance for yourself and others.
- Don’t miss moments that count – Be there for your kid’s school play or your partner’s birthday.
Leaders who embody feminine qualities, such as listening to their body’s needs, making time for family and striving for healthy, balanced relationships at home and work have greater success in their endeavors. For example, during the COVID-19 pandemic, women led seven out of the nine countries that were rated for handling the crisis best. They listened to experts instead of claiming to possess knowledge they didn’t have, spoke honestly to their constituents, exhibited empathy to those who struggled and explained their decisions clearly.
These female leaders inspired others because they made their people feel heard. As a leader, listen to your employees’ needs and respond with support and respect. Create a workplace in which your employees feel understood and know they are safe to express their concerns.
Positivity – Lead with emotional intelligence and gratitude.
Creating a positive workplace requires using emotional intelligence to allow space for all kinds of feelings and to give others permission to be fully human as well. In The Emotionally Intelligent Workplace, Daniel Goleman reports that emotional intelligence (EQ) contributes 85% more to a leader’s success than cognitive intelligence contributes.
Prioritize your EQ and create positivity when you deal with your emotions and others people’s feelings. Take five steps:
- Accept your emotional responses, and don’t suppress or limit them.
- Pause and create a space to think before reacting.
- Empathize to understand other people’s perspectives.
- Reframe your emotions positively. Recognize your passion within your anger.
- Always maintain and respect your and other people’s personal boundaries.
Expressing gratitude, another aspect of inspiring positivity, improves everyone’s well-being. Cultivate gratitude by finding three things you feel grateful for each day, sharing your appreciation with others, looking for silver linings even in painful experiences, using positive feedback and celebrating accomplishments.
Gratitude makes you feel more satisfied and accomplished. Its infectious nature spreads optimism, boosts productivity and gives you more resilience at work and at home.
About the Author
Former top-level global marketing executive at P&G, Dalia Feldheim is the CEO and founder of Flow Leadership Consultancy.