Becoming a Well-Woman Leader

by | Mar 22, 2024 | Leadership

Graphic submitted by Desiree Young. Used with permission.

In my last post, I discussed how harmful it is for women to live up to the Superwoman stereotype. The typical leadership model of the past is built around men who have a strong support system at home. I pray that you have reflected and realized there must be a change. But change is hard, especially when this is how you’ve always operated. There is the guilt around no longer volunteering yourself to save the world. In this post, I will discuss how to get out of Superwoman mode and get into becoming a Well-Woman. 

Defining a Well-Woman

I draw my image of the Well-Woman leader from the story in the Gospel of John about Jesus’s lengthy, life-transforming conversation with an unnamed woman of Samaria.

Take a moment to read John 4: 4-30.

The scene of this life-changing conversation between Jesus and the Woman of Samaria happens at a well—a place where community members gathered to draw water for their daily sustenance and household tasks. Jesus uses the well as an object lesson and promises this woman that he would be in her different type of well—one from which living (spiritually life-giving) water would spring into eternal life. They go on to have the longest recorded conversation in the gospels and bring to light life-changing lessons around salvation, worship, the Messiah, and mission.

I’ve come to define a Well-Woman as one who draws from the spiritual well that Jesus promised to infuse the entirety of her life with principles and practices of wholeness and wellness. A well-woman leader is one who wholistically leads from the depth of the well within and helps others lead from a healthy place as well. 

Transforming to the Well-Woman Leader Starts Inside You

In my book, Leading Well: A Black Woman’s Guide to Wholistic, Barrier-Breaking Leadership, I write about a time when I was serving as an Associate Professor at a Christian university in Chicago, active in ministry at my church and providing church leadership consulting through my company. As the young people today say, “I was doing all the things!”

When processing my overloaded calendar with a dear friend, I admitted feeling stretched but casually remarked, “But I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength.” 

Without missing a beat, my friend retorted, “But does Christ want you to do Everything? It was then that I realized that  I was leading like a Superwoman but quietly wearing out on the inside, operating on fumes. Thankfully I made a shift and embarked upon a decades-long journey toward wholeness and leading like a Well-Woman. 

I want to offer a more wholistic approach to leadership that honors our total humanity as women who lead, especially Black women who lead. Acknowledgment is the first step needed to make changes. 

Give Yourself Grace

The truth is we are strong. We accomplish a lot as leaders, but that’s not all we are. We are women with great passion and energy, but we also get tired. We are women full of great joy, and we also experience sadness. We experience and express the full range of human emotions because we are, well, human. Lean on and embrace your humanity.

You cannot do it all, and it is okay to take a break. Taking on the weight of the world is not a badge of honor. Those who love and care will honor your mindset change. For those who don’t, God has better for you. 

Start with How You See Yourself

Transforming from Superwoman to Well-Woman is a process that takes time and intentionality. It starts with how you see yourself and your underlying beliefs and assumptions about your identity and purpose.

As a leadership coach, I help leaders examine their internal mindset and values, develop an image of who they want to be, and affirm who they are becoming.  The real change from leading like a Superwoman to leading like a Well-Woman starts with a shift in you. How you see yourself shapes how you behave as a leader and affects how others see you and treat you. If you see yourself as a Superwoman trying to be everything to everybody, others will respect that image of you and take as much from you as you keep giving.  But when you shift to seeing yourself as a Well-Woman leader, you train others on how to treat you and respect your boundaries. The shift has to start within you.

You have to make up your mind that you are becoming a Well-Woman journeying toward wholeness in the various spheres of your life. This pursuit shapes a wholistic approach to leadership that enables you to be a leader who is effective and healthy.

Form Actionable Habits and Practices that Shift Your Behavior

  • Habit #1: Prioritize spending time at “the well” talking to the Lord about who you really are. Listen to the wisdom of the Spirit about your authentic self. Place this time on your calendar, protect it, and follow it. 
  • Habit #2: Use a journal to check in and be honest with yourself. Reflect on: Am I operating more like a superwoman or a Well-Woman? Am I a superwoman in disguise prone to putting on my cape, ready to leap into overdrive at a moment’s notice? Or am I having a superwoman moment and determined not to get stuck in that identity? Set a time to journal about your beliefs about yourself, your identity, and what you are “supposed” to do and not do. Which beliefs limit you and make you feel trapped? Which beliefs align with the truth of Scripture and liberate you to follow the Holy Spirit and the Word? Do this weekly. Or after significant challenges.
  • Habit #3: Affirm the Well-Woman that is emerging within you. In the communication field, we used to say, “Words create worlds.” You can use the power of your words to affirm the inner world you are creating. I have developed a set of Well-Woman affirmations that you can use.  Click this link to download the affirmations.

Work on forming these 3 habits, and you’ll be well on your way to shifting to a healthier way to lead.

Becoming a Well-Woman leader is a journey that starts with a shift in mindset and a commitment to wholeness. It requires acknowledging our humanity, giving ourselves grace, and intentionally forming actionable habits and practices that align with our values and beliefs. By drawing from the spiritual well within, we can lead from a healthy place and help others do the same. Let us embrace this journey and continue to grow into the Well-Woman leaders God has called us to be.

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