Attuned Leadership for Women Podcast

Episode 017

Cultivate Your Unique Leadership Identity – Part One


In this first episode of a two-part series, I’m debunking the myth that women in leadership lack drive and commitment. The truth is that women are equally hardworking and ambitious, but they often face the challenge of being underestimated in their leadership capabilities.

The good news? I have a game-changing strategy for you: developing your leadership identity. Listen to this shorter, value-packed show to learn what it means, why it’s crucial, and how it can smooth your path to success, whether you’re an emerging leader or an established one.

A picture of me with text surrounding describing episode 006 and the importance of authentic personal branding to help women stand out in a male-dominant world.

Quotes from the Episode 

“Leadership identity is the foundation upon which you build your leadership style.

Dr. Crystal Frazee

“Research has shown that there’s a tendency for people of all ages and genders to equate the concept of good leadership with behaviors considered more common in men, but when women show up with a masculine leadership style they are criticized.

Dr. Crystal Frazee

“Women face a complex double bind where they have to balance assertiveness and empathy, strength and approachability, confidence and likability, don’t be too cocky, high-performance expectations and caring for others. It’s a real balancing act, and it’s the result of societal expectations and gender norms of leadership, which often require women to navigate a fine line between these contrasting qualities, and it makes their leadership journey more challenging.”

Dr. Crystal Frazee


[00:02:12] Leadership Identity.

[00:04:29] Women’s double bind in leadership.

[00:09:38] Self-awareness in leadership.

[00:12:59] Masculine vs. feminine leadership styles.

[00:18:02] Self-promotion and advocating for yourself.

[00:21:43] Authenticity and sustainability.

Mentioned In This Episode:

Learn more about the Attuned Leadership Audits for emerging and established leaders.

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    Prefer to Read? Here’s the transcript!

    *Just a heads up – the provided transcript is likely to not be 100% accurate. 


    Dr. Crystal Frazee: In today’s world, there’s a myth that there aren’t as many women in the upper ranks of corporate leadership or business ownership because they don’t have the same drive and commitment as men. The reality, though, is that women are just as hardworking and ambitious, but they aren’t seen as having equal leadership capabilities.

    The good news I have for you is that there’s a critical strategy that helps you overcome this. It’s to develop your leadership identity. And I have a two-part series for you where I’m gonna teach you what that means, why you need it, and how it can decrease the friction in your journey and shape your path to success, whether you’re an emerging or an already established woman leader. I hope you find it relevant and applicable. There’s a lot to cover in this series, so let’s get right into it.

    Show Trailer

    Where do established and aspiring women leaders go to get answers to their biggest challenges, like how to deal with double standards, break free from hustle and burnout, drive change without being bossy, and how to raise visibility by doing less, not more? I’m Dr. Crystal Frazee, your host and a women’s health and leadership expert and author. I’ve spent the past 15 years developing the answers to those questions. I believe that your body has all the wisdom you need and that without much effort, you can leverage it for things like faster, better decision-making, creating a magnetic presence for influence, and even navigating perimenopause so your performance goes up instead of down. In this show, I will teach you what traditional leadership approaches overlook, how to leverage your body wisdom to break free from time and energy traps, shatter barriers, dissolve the good woman programming that stops you from living on your terms, level the playing field at home and work, and be the most powerful leader you can be. Get ready to rewrite the rules of success and satisfaction using the practical strategies of attuned leadership for women. Let’s dive in.

    Main Content

    Dr. Crystal Frazee:

    All right, we’re kicking off Episode 017, Part one in the Leadership Identity series. And I’m gonna start by answering the question, “What is leadership identity and why is it a game changer for women in today’s professional world?” I’ll tell you, it’s more than just a buzzword. It’s your unique leadership fingerprint. I want you to think of it as the compass guiding your decisions and actions.

    Leadership identity is the foundation upon which you build your leadership style.

    Yeah, you start with leadership identity that informs your leadership style. As a woman, this is critically important because women often face a higher degree of bias regarding their capabilities and women’s leadership styles are subject to more criticism. This bias can manifest in lots of different ways that I’ve covered in previous episodes. If you haven’t yet, I highly recommend that you go back and listen to episodes one through four. where I’m really setting you up to understand attuned leadership and give you a solid foundation of what biases I believe most impact professional women and the ways that you can encounter them.

    I want to get real with you here. The unspoken truth is that women and minority populations face conscious and unconscious stereotypes that limit leadership potential. It just plain sucks. Research has shown that there’s a tendency for people of all ages and genders to equate the concept of leadership, of good leadership, with behaviors considered more common in men. And these are qualities like direct communication, assertiveness, confidence, extroversion, competitiveness, risk-taking, and dominance, like using an authoritative style to exert control over people and situations. This harmful association creates the perception that women are not naturally suited for leadership roles and disregards the diverse and effective leadership styles that women can bring to the table. But women can’t just show up with a masculine style. Women face a complex double bind where they have to balance assertiveness and empathy, strength and approachability, confidence and likability, don’t be too cocky, high performance expectations and caring for others. It’s a real balancing act, and it’s the result of societal expectations and gender norms of leadership, which often require women to navigate a fine line between these contrasting qualities, and it makes their leadership journey more challenging.

    Hey, I’m interrupting the show to share with you real quick that through my coaching agency, I found that being intentional to create your leadership identity is so crucial that it’s now a service that I offer. I’m so excited to share about the Leadership Identity Audit. I help emerging professionals unleash their upward mobility and help established leaders maximize their impact. Through the audit, we’ll look at all the facets that I’m sharing in this two-part series and we locate where you may have blind spots and I coach you in where to focus to fill the gaps or navigate challenges in your leadership identity so that you really maximize your presence. and get results. If you’re an emerging or established leader and want to know more about the Leadership Identity Audit, just go to forward slash audit.

    The reason I’m making this series for you covering this topic is I want you to be aware of these realities because they’re the professional waters we swim in. I also want you to have hope that there are some strategic steps that you can take today that will enhance your leadership identity and therefore your leadership style.

    Before we jump into those, I want to take a second to recognize that context matters here. Developing your leadership identity may go differently for you depending on your industry and specific workplace. If you’re the only female leader out of 40 at your organization, or if you’re the first female in the history of a tech company, or if you’re navigating the complex landscape of a traditionally male-dominated field like finance or engineering, your journey will come with unique challenges and opportunities. Understanding this context is crucial to tailoring your approach and strategies for leadership development. It’s about recognizing that your leadership identity is not only shaped by your individual skills and aspirations, but also by the environment that you’re operating in.

    I can share an aspect of how that’s shown up for me. My leadership experience was initially in healthcare. I was the only female added to an all-male interdisciplinary team. So there was two physicians, a psychiatrist, and a psychologist at a chronic pain facility that were all male, where I worked as the director of physical rehabilitation. As I developed my leadership identity, I had to take into account the bias from the patient population about my abilities as a clinician in my late 20s and pierce through a wall of perceptions about me from the male leadership team, all of whom had worked together for many years. And that identity influenced my style of clothing, the tone I used to speak or write emails, and how much I shared about my personal family life at work.

    It wasn’t until a later leadership position that I realized that that original leadership identity didn’t match my values or vision that I wanted for my career. And I was intentional to change that so that I could be more authentic in my leadership presence. And I found that it was much more fulfilling and I was a more effective leader. At another place of work, they claim to have “family feel” compared to the polished professional environment that I had previously been in. Here, I had to refine my leadership identity in a different way. My focus needed to be less about my external appearance and much more about my internal boundaries because the upper leadership non-verbally created this expectation almost of a selfless sacrifice of personal time, and they expected an incredible amount of volunteering at this for-profit company.

    All right, that’s a decent overview of leadership identity, and hopefully that story helped you. Now let’s break it down into the three core elements of leadership identity. They are self-awareness, skill development, and authentic leadership.

    Let’s start with the first category, self-awareness. I’m sure you know what that word means. Forming your leadership identity starts with personal reflection, asking yourself things like, who am I and what do I value? Who am I in this role? Who am I at this organization? Take a second and ask yourself if you’re clear right now on your personal values, your professional values. Are you clear on what your strengths are? What do you bring into this role or to your organization that is really unique to you? And what are the weaknesses, the areas where it may take more effort for you to complete certain types of work?

    And this is important for men and women to do. You need the self-awareness step because if you can’t name those values, strengths and weaknesses off the top of your head, then it’s really great to carve out some time and reflect and journal so that you can know your answers.

    Identifying your values can be a tricky one. I want you to think about your core beliefs, principles, and what really matters to you. Those would be your values. Another way is to get feedback from others like your peers, mentors, or colleagues by asking for their input on what they perceive that you value most. And once you have a list of values, I want you to rank them in order so that you’re clear on which values are most important to you and which values take precedence in your decision making. And your values become an integral part of your leadership identity as you practice them. So look at your daily actions and decisions and notice how consistently you’re living in alignment with your values.

    I recently had a conversation with a client about her feeling burned out. And after some coaching, she realized that she wasn’t living up to her values at work because the environment just didn’t support it. She’s in a fairly drama-filled, negative department at her organization, and she loves what she does, but not the way she feels as she does it because of this discordance between what she values and the way she feels she’s being forced to work at this organization. She’s not ready to look at other leadership opportunities, you know, and move into a position elsewhere. So instead, she’s focusing on how to better live her values by setting boundaries and opting out of drama-laden conversations and gossip.

    Her story is a good example of how simply practicing self-awareness was huge in shifting her satisfaction and sustainability and helping her really align her values with her actions so that she is more strongly using her leadership identity and how she shows up at work. The last thing I want to say about self-awareness is that I want you to get a sense of where you fall on the masculine-to-feminine leadership style spectrum. So no one is just one or the other. That doesn’t exist.

    So think about the main areas of your identity at work, like communication, decision making, building consent, getting consent from others on your ideas, relating and connecting to others, and your work style, where a masculine style is more independent and competitive, focused on achieving goals despite the needs of others, A feminine style has more adaptability where leaders adjust their approach to accommodate changing circumstances or the needs of the team. A feminine style is more focused on fostering a culture of acceptance and empathy, promoting collaboration and seeking consensus, as well as using active listening and promoting teamwork. For right now, neither one of these is better or worse than the other. There’s no good and bad, but kind of get a sense of where you fall if this was a spectrum.

    The second element of honing your leadership identity is skill development. So everything that I just described falls under self-awareness. I want you to be able to describe those aspects of your leadership identity. When I say skill development, I mean acquiring and improving the really practical skills necessary for effective leadership. These skills could be a wide range of competencies that enable you to lead, to manage, and to inspire others with confidence and competence. So regarding that masculine feminine leadership style that I described and wanted you to kind of decide where you fall on that spectrum, if you fall far on one end of the spectrum, naturally, you would benefit by developing new skills just slightly towards the other side. So not the other end of the pole, but moving you down the spectrum. And so as we talk about skill development, that can be one way to look at where should you focus?

    Because really, the truth is that effective leaders flex their behavior to meet the situation and their team’s needs. It’s really not just always one way. It’s evolving and it’s dynamic. and you have this rich bag of tools and you want to be able to pull out of that bag what you need in the moment to have the impact you want. So as you refine your leadership identity, you’re going to evolve to be able to draw from both ends of the spectrum as you have more skills and know when you need to make that shift to get the result that you’re looking for. So I’m going to list off some skills and just kind of ask yourself, which of these high demand skills do I need to improve?

    Communication is first, and that is the ability to craft persuasive messages and convey your ideas clearly, as well as setting expectations and boundaries. The next one is making informed and timely decisions, handling conflicts and leading others to resolution. Another really important skill is building and managing high performance teams. And it’s tricky because it means creating a cohesive culture and fostering collaboration. Great leaders have strong emotional intelligence that they use to understand others and themselves. How are you doing with those skills? And what about time management, where you can easily set priorities, create schedules, eliminate time-wasting habits? Is there anything there?

    So of these that I’ve listed, what is the number one area of skills that you feel like would help you if you created? And then what do you think would be the next two that you could focus on? Another one is adaptability. And I’ve mentioned that. So, you know, you want to be open to innovation and able to pivot when necessary. Strategic long-term thinking is also an important skill so that you can create goals for growth that are on point for your market trends and within your organization’s capability. Because if you create a mismatch, you can really create a lot of strain in the organization. Networking is another skill that, you know, women are often left out of informal networking opportunities compared to men. So you think about catching the game, going golfing, doing things like that. So for women, building professional relationships can be vital for leadership. And that can mean establishing and maintaining relationships and seeking mentors. And the last one that I’ll mention is self-promotion.

    This is a skill that I’ve almost always encouraged my clients to develop further. As a woman leader, you need to constantly remind yourself of your value. actually to track it, to have like a wins sheet in your desk so that you can add things to it as you collect more wins in your leadership journey, and so that you have it memorized and top of mind so you can advocate for yourself and speak to what you bring to the table so that you’re countering the unconscious bias others may have of you or your contributions.

    Okay, that’s a lot of skills. Obviously, you’re not gonna work on all those at one time, but I do want you to get a sense of where are you in the top three that you could focus on. Once you know which skills you need to gain, then think about where you can get them. Does your organization have a resource group or mentorship opportunities? Does your company offer any benefits for coaching? And if not, have you tried to look online for a recently published book on the topic? Of course, you can’t develop all these skills at once. So instead of focusing on which one may feel the most important, I really encourage you to start with the one that feels most doable. It’s within reach. You feel motivated and it doesn’t feel overwhelming to think about. Starting with something that feels approachable will give you some momentum to go for that next level skill that you need to develop, the one that may be less familiar and a little more intimidating. So remember this, success breeds success. And so starting with baby steps and small wins leads to big wins. I promise.

    Okay, as we’re wrapping up the second element of leadership identity here, I want you to know that the bigger your skill set, the more value you contribute because you get to be more creative with how you show up and tackle problems with more tools to draw from. You get better and better at knowing which skills to use under different circumstances, including high pressure circumstances, and you become seen as more and more capable, trusted, and consistently able to lead no matter what the stakes.

    Now we get to move on to the last element of forming your leadership identity that I’m going to share today is authenticity. And I thought this was a really important one to touch on because a lot of leaders have a misconception that authenticity is the same as vulnerability. Now there’s some crossover here but being authentic I want you to think about it in terms of being true to those values and beliefs that you identified in that self-awareness step.

    Authenticity means being true to yourself because others around you see you being consistent in showing up in your behavior and your decision making. The more authentic you can be in living your values, the more you build trust and your credibility. And authenticity is different than vulnerability because it doesn’t necessarily mean that you’re sharing your personal stories or revealing about your internal world, although it can. It means that you show in your leadership that you’re a human being and not a robot. It doesn’t mean you’re unaffected by everything. If one of your values is transparency, then sharing your thoughts, challenges, and successes with your team can encourage open communication and strengthen your leadership. That’s an example of when authenticity might mean being more vulnerable to share your internal world.

    Another thing I want to point out is that authenticity supports sustainability because it takes far less energy to show up as who you are than to spend energy to mask who you are and show up as someone else or to filter yourself constantly.

    Remember that story I told you about being the director of physical rehabilitation? That’s kind of how I felt. I had to filter out who I was to show up in a way where I was palatable to other people. It was exhausting and took a lot of energy. When you decide to show up as who you are, given the context of your environment, then it helps you sustain over the long term because as your identity evolves, then so does who you bring to your leadership identity and your leadership style authentically.

    One last note on authenticity is that if you’re in an environment where conformity is prevalent, then being authentic might be more challenging. You need to weigh the risk with the potential rewards, which are having stronger relationships, increased self-confidence, and the ability to inspire others.

    I champion you to embrace your unique qualities as a leader. And remember that showing up as who you truly are is a powerful tool for a more fulfilling career journey. So as you think about authentic leadership and showing up authentically, what are the qualities that are important to you that you want to bring into your presence, into your communication, and into the way you lead that are uniquely you.

    I hope you’ve enjoyed this episode and found it helpful to understand what leadership identity is and to get some of these initial points and how to develop it. I hope it’s been thought-provoking and that you’ll sit down later and think about it and journal it out and really be intentional about this.

    Remember to check out the Leadership Identity Audit. In the next show, which drops in two weeks, I’m going to walk you through the specific aspects of leadership identity that I want you to refine, depending on whether you’re an emerging leader or an already established leader, already at the top of the rank. And I’m separating these two because what you need to know, and what you need to do is unique for those two categories of leaders in order to navigate the distinct challenges that come with blazing a trail versus steering the ship. So join me as I coach you to shape your leadership identity and thrive in your respective leadership journey. Don’t miss the next episode 18 will be coming soon.

    Lastly, please take a quick moment to rate the show and leave a short written review of why you listen in the Apple podcast app on your phone. It helps others to discover the show and it means so much to me. Thank you for listening.