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The “Perfectionist” Trap: How Women Leaders See Their Value at Work—and How They Can Break Through in 2023

January 20, 2023 Deana LaFauci

Cross those T’s. Dot those I’s. Check every boxand tie every bow.

Women leaders are achieving at the highest levels, managing higher expectations and attaining greater goals than ever before. However, while Linkage’s latest research on the advancement of women leaders shows that a majority of women are confident about their ability to lead, they often refrain from promoting their own accomplishments at work, and they adopt workplace behaviors that may prevent them from moving up.

“As organizations strive to meaningfully engage, support, develop and retain women leaders in 2023, it is important to understand exactly how women leaders perceive themselves as leaders—and identify the workplace behaviors that may be potentially inhibiting a woman’s ability to advance,” said Katharine Panessidi, AVP of the Advancing Women Leaders Practice at Linkage, who oversaw the research. “This latest research from Linkage is critical for organizational leaders to understand as they develop their strategies for the advancement of women leaders.”

Here’s what the latest data from Linkage tells us about women in the workplace in 2023:

  1. Women leaders are confident about their leadership potential. 

    The new study, which includes 360° assessment data from thousands of women leaders at leading organizations, finds that confidence is up, with 70% of women reporting that they feel as or more qualified than their male peers, and 58% of women saying they feel confident in immediately taking on a more senior position. 

    The confidence women leaders feel in their own ability to lead at the highest levels indicates their willingness and their preparedness to take on increased responsibility. But, women need to learn how to utilize this confidence to enact real progress in their careers.

  2. Women leaders aren’t “self-promoting,” or telling their own story of success. 

    Linkage’s study also found that while most women are confident about their ability to lead, they are not promoting their own accomplishments at work. Just 13% of the women surveyed reported that they promoted their success to their leaders and peers. 

    “While women leaders are confident in their qualifications and their ability to take on a more senior role, our research shows that many women simply do not tell anyone about it,” said Katharine. “Many women leaders turn to the next task, project or initiative on their list, when they should lift up to tell their own story of success to the broader organization.”

  3. Women leaders are leaning on workplace practices that can hold them back. 

    Women leaders tend to take on more in the workplace, volunteer for high-profile projects, and continually add to their role to prove their value as they ascend in the leadership ranks. This means that women often “over-row the boat” to continually demonstrate their value, and along this path, they tend to adopt practices that hold them back in their roles and their careers.According to the survey, 66% of women say they are a “perfectionist” in how they approach work. And, 81% of women report that they say “yes” to all work requests, even unreasonable ones.

    “Women try to live up to the impossible standard of ‘perfection’ while taking on all the tasks that come their way, from both their bosses and peers,” said Katharine. “That is simply not sustainable, and we know these behaviors directly contribute to burnout in women, and potentially a stagnation in their careers as they aren’t able to step into higher-level, strategic work.”

THE BIG TAKEAWAY

As organizations continue to work to mitigate the impact of an ongoing health and economic crisis on employee engagement and retention, they must understand how women leaders perceive themselves and their value as leaders. Further, organizations must be able to identify and understand the behaviors that may ultimately inhibit women’s advancement. The data in Linkage’s survey can help to inform a thoughtful approach to the engagement and development of women leaders, focused on empowering women to scale the hurdles to advancement.

Dark haired woman watches from audience of conference event

Women in Leadership Institute

NOV. 13–16, 2023 | Orlando, Florida, or Virtual
A 4-day immersive learning experience designed to equip women leaders with actionable strategies to overcome the hurdles women often face in the workplace.

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