We need more women leaders who are free.

I have a mentee, who thinks she is not good enough, when in fact she is really good at what she does. She has an opinion about things and perspectives that are nuanced. She tells me that she wants to be like me and I tell her that she should be like herself.

I have another mentee. Her manager is a woman who is stressed out, trying to prove herself. She transfers her stress to her team all the time. She makes life harder for the women in her team, telling them that they are aggressive if they are opinionated, and should speak up more, if they are silent. 

I recently had an hour long conversation with a woman CEO around organizational culture, team building, product management, etc. She was awesome. She was humble and to the point and I felt refreshed after the conversation. Unlike a lot of conversations with male leaders, where gloating or name throwing happens every five minutes, she hardly talked about her accomplishments but rather kept the focus on her company’s vision. 

I have heard conversations across the board from women leaders telling the women in their team that with every child they have, their career takes a two year hit. What a load of crap! Your career does not take a hit because of the child, it takes a hit because of lack of support. Let’s solve the problem of support by creating programs where we support life changes (See PayPal's Recharge program). And, by the way this cannot not be a general rule of the thumb. If it is, then we all should be embarrassed to have contributed to this rule.

We need leaders with perspectives, empathy and humility and in other words, women leaders. But we need these leaders to be free and not under stress to fit in and prove themselves at every step. The free women leaders at the top are key to balancing the playing field and making it level so that everyone is held to the similar standards. 

Leaders (both men and women), your team looks up to you. Your voice becomes their voice. What you tell them shapes their world. Tell them stories of hope, tell them stories of leadership and courage and tell them that it is OK to have an opinion, be original and stand out. And, support them while they do that.