Dragons’ Den presenter Deborah Meaden is well known in her position as a CEO, but how can Christian women take on similar positions in a way that centres their faith in how they lead? Girls’ Brigade CEO, Judith Davey-Cole shares what she has learned about doing it well.
Is it easy being a Christian female leader? No of course it isn’t. Being a leader is hard, being a female leader is hard. And being a female Christian leader is hard because trying to do the “right thing” is hard. But putting our Christian values into action and knowing that God is with us helps illuminate the rocky path and guides in our decision-making.
The organisation I work for now - Girls’ Brigade - enables and equips girls and young women to be the leaders of the future – in all spheres of life. We’re brimming with hopeful energy as we seek to encourage girls and young women to seek, serve and follow Christ and live life to the full. Our track record in transforming lives and communities is amazing and what I truly hope is that we can encourage and inspire the leaders of the future.
There is lots of well evidenced research about the value of women’s leadership and the benefits of gender diverse boards and senior leadership teams.
There is lots of well evidenced research about the value of women’s leadership and the benefits of gender diverse boards and senior leadership teams. Better financial performance, better staff retention, and better staff engagement are just some of those positives.
The different perspectives that women bring to work relationships and decision-making tend to result in more collaborative workplaces with a more positive and inclusive culture. But crucially, gender balanced teams tend to be more innovative and creative. And in my view, Christian women leaders bring something additional – and transformational.
People see me as a values-based leader, and I’m very comfortable with that. Values-based leadership is a type of leadership that prioritises building a culture of trust and integrity, because working in such an environment of trust and integrity means that people can do their “best work” and success follows.
I have worked for organisations who have values that I believe in and that echo my Christian values. I try my best to love others as myself. I try my best to be “strong and courageous” as described in Deuteronomy. I try my best to live out Proverbs 31:8 and Micah 6:8, speaking out for others, defending their rights, and walking humbly with God. It’s possible to live these values in your professional life as well as in your personal life.
And Christian women leaders bring something additional – and transformational – in my view.
As an example, I turned around an organisation that couldn’t keep staff (over half the workforce left the company the year before I joined). As well as being financially insecure, it had a blame culture and because people were afraid to make decisions it created a paralysis where nothing happened.
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By focusing on the issues facing staff, by listening to them, by doing what I promised, by increasing the diversity in the organisation, and by leading by example, we created an environment of trust where people felt valued. The percentage of staff who felt that it was safe to speak up and challenge how things were done went up from 20% to 78% in two years, and the organisation prospered as a result.
So, what’s my advice to other Christian women leaders?
· Be yourself.
· Live out your faith - let people see your faith through your actions.
· Concentrate on building trust and integrity. Success will follow.
· Help others on their journey too – as they have helped you.
Organisations like Girls’ Brigade are foundational in sowing seeds - building confidence, making friends, developing leadership skills, and discovering Jesus. Many of the girls and young women are from families who either don’t have faith or don’t go to church. They value the friendship and fun and discover faith along the way. And that’s wonderful.
Find out more about Girls’ Brigade.