Raising The Next Generation Of Fearless Female Leaders

As I look at the state of our country today, I am struck by the inevitable fact that we would be in a much better place if our history told a story of a more balanced leadership; male and female.

I am a woman who has always been attracted to male-dominated spaces: Manufacturing and engineering, commercial real estate and now real estate development. I know all too well that even when you are allowed to join the executive ranks in a male-dominated environment, you end up assimilating into the male culture in order to succeed.

I have always considered myself strong, powerful and limitless, but I would be lying if I didn’t admit that I often didn’t speak up or show up to my fullest extent in a room filled with men.

As this country reckons with its historical and present-day treatment of the female gender, women are rising up to use the full power of their voices. Since the 2016 election, Emily’s List has reported that more than 30,000 women have reached out to them to get help as they consider running for office. Parents surveyed by She Should Run see their daughters as natural-born leaders who set lofty goals and believe in their ability to succeed. The future of leadership is undoubtedly more female, and I for one could not be happier.

As the mother of two strong-willed young girls, I want my daughters to embrace these leadership opportunities and show up in the world as their authentic selves, always. I don’t want them to have to compromise pieces of their identity as I did, as a young woman forging my way through Corporate America.

Authentic leadership will bring forward the strength of the female voice and the power of female authority. This type of leadership requires worthiness, a willingness to fail and the ability to build strong relationships.

A Sense Of Worthiness

So as we groom our girls and young women to be the courageous leaders of tomorrow, what should we be teaching them? I posed this question to Charmaine McClarie, an executive coach in Los Angeles, who helps leaders bring voice to themselves and affect positive change in the world.

Instilling an idea of intrinsic value was the message that resonated throughout our discussion. McClaire explained that in her coaching practice, she sees that men have been taught to recognize and tout their value, whereas women often lack that perspective. From a young age, women need to be shown that they are born worthy of taking up space and being heard. Part of being truly heard is learning to articulate one’s value.

McClaire tries to get her new clients to look beyond seeing their job title or field of expertise as their main value by asking, “When you do what you do well, what happens in the world? What is the impact you have on the people around you and the finances, visibility or growth of your community or organization?”

Fear And Failure

Once a foundation of intrinsic worth is in place, space needs to be created for girls to paint outside the lines. The next generation of leaders is not going to be the ones who follow all the rules. Instead, they will push limits for the betterment of all. This practice goes hand in hand with teaching them to experience and work through failure.

When you chart new territory, sometimes you make mistakes. Helping young women develop a growth mindset that learns from failure will lead to rapid and limitless growth. Learning to fail gracefully also builds courage. As McClaire reminded me, “There is no such thing as fearless!” We need to teach our girls to be courageous, to act even in the face of fear. When you are not afraid of failure as a permanent indicator of your abilities, being courageous becomes a bit easier.

The Heart Of It All

Relationships are at the heart of leadership. The first step to being in a relationship, however, is to understand who you are and what you stand for. Once you have a firm grasp of what your core values are, you are then able to build a team of people who are aligned with those values. This alignment is mutually beneficial because you can trust that your team is acting from a shared set of core beliefs.

In addition, people prefer to follow leaders that demonstrate a similar values systems as they do, creating loyalty and trust in both directions. To create deeper relationships in leadership, we also need to stop reinforcing the idea that in girls “bossy” equals “leadership qualities.”

The most productive way to sell a team on your vision and guide them to it is to lead by example. There is no need for us to teach our girls habits cultivated in a male-dominant environment that countless studies have proven to be ineffective in the long run. People need to see a leader set the tone by their actions, more than they need to have it shouted at them.

Women don’t just have great ideas to share; we have our own unique magic for getting things done. The feminine approach to leadership, when allowed to show up in all of its glory, creates a significantly more imaginative, cohesive and equitable environment. Let’s make sure that we are giving our young girls the foundational tools that they need in order to be tomorrow’s courageous leaders.


Karla Thomas is the founder of Quad-Rants for Change, a platform dedicated to amplifying marginalized voices. With boredom as her arch nemesis, Karla is a writer, public speaker, activist and a real estate entrepreneur. Much of her passion-driven work centers around women and children, race relations and LGBTQIA issues. Karla has a B.S in Mechanical Engineering and an MBA from Northwestern’s Kellogg School of Business. She resides in Chicago with her wife and two incredible daughters. Follow her on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook.

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