Mentoring Mentality

Posted on November 18, 2020

We All Need Each Other

Today’s Buzz is brought to you by Mentorship

Sarah O’Brien, Community Whisperer, Collaborative Development Collective, TX (LinkedIn, Facebook)


Caz R. Muske, Assistant City Administrator, Clintonville, WI (Twitter & LinkedIn)

Sarah is Currently Reading: We are All Starters, Right to Start’s Manifesto

Sarah Currently Jammin’ To: Losing my Religion by REM

Caz is Currently Reading: Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand

Caz is Currently Jammin’ To: SUPERBLOOM by MisterWives

“According to a recent survey, 56% of American workers have had a professional mentor, while 76% believe that mentorship is an important part of professional and career development. Unsurprisingly, there is a pronounced gender discrepancy when it comes to American mentorship; 82% of men have had male mentors, while just 69% of women have had female mentors.” (Forbes)


While I have never been a part of an official mentorship program or engaged in a formal mentorship, I seem to have spent a lot of my professional career married to mentorship in some capacity. I would have never suggested I be qualified to write about mentoring or to even label myself as someone who mentors. But we don’t often get to pick our positions in life, do we? I have naturally found myself in countless mentor/mentee relationships through the years. Blessed that I had the opportunity to lean on mentors early in my career, and appreciative of the mentee’s I have stumbled upon that I am proud to call my friends. And now I find myself in a role reversal with my friend, mentee, and now mentor, Caz Muske. 

This is to be my last morning buzz and since the morning buzz is what led me to Caz almost two years ago, when she penned her Misfit buzz series, I thought it would be fitting to ask for her assistance. Thankfully on a recent phone call we had discussing female leadership it was obvious Caz had the morning buzz motivation I simply couldn’t find myself. 

What’s on your mind Caz?

There is a ton of pressure on leaders to lead in the most effective way while managing a diverse team. As a leader, it is important to be bold in decision making and implementing initiatives; however, not forgetting a sense of humanity. 

And humility, Caz, don’t forget humility. 

So true. As a woman leader in local government, I find myself and other women leaders struggling with the balance of approach. We ask ourselves: “Am I being too nice? Am I being firm enough?”

The constant feedback from our peers and society keeps us in limbo of where we think we should be on the meter of effective leadership.

Amen. I struggle daily allowing others opinions or lack thereof of myself affect the work I do. Why is that Caz?

Here are the main issues I have experienced and observed in others:

  1. Women leaders often feel the need to overcompensate and dehumanize how we lead in an attempt to have a greater impact. Unfortunately this often results in resentment from our teams.
  2. Women leaders often do not have the same level of confidence and do not start on the same playing field as our male counterparts do in regards to leading teams. And this results in us not meeting our own expectations or setting our goals at “unachievable” levels. Meaning we set them too low that we have to work at being something we are not in order to achieve them.  

Your absolutely right Caz. We are setting ourselves up for failure, not success in regards to leading teams simply based on our beliefs and based on the contexts of our environments. So how do we combat these things? We have to shift our mindsets, don’t we?

Yes we absolutely do. But you know there is a point when women leaders are railroaded just enough times that we truly believe in our minds we are only adequate if we behave like a dictator. We have shifted our minds already in so much that we have already hardened our edges just so we feel like we are being taken seriously. Our minds do a necessary shift from the amazing empathetic care taking mode that we are all born with to that of an overbearing unsympathetic drill sergeant. Then everyone that meets us along our path ahead has to pay for the mindset shift we made caused by the societal standards set by….

Set by idiots and false assumptions? Including our own?

Yes.Yes. Yes.  Those that conditioned us to pretend we don’t care in order to lead and ourselves for believing we had to change.. We begin to demand respect versus experience the beautiful process of creating trust and mutual respect within our teams. And we choose to do this. We choose to be creatures who clawed our way to the top expecting to be obeyed at all costs as opposed to earning trust and eliciting confidence naturally and authentically. 

Awwwww. We forget that it’s okay to be ourselves, to be who we were born to be, to be female. Our expectations for ourselves are to be more than who we are, to be more human than we are, and well frankly that’s impossible bullshit.

You don’t have that problem Sarah, lol. Another great example – besides Queen O’Brien herself – is Dr. Wanda Austin. Dr. Austin is a black-American woman who navigated through trials and tribulations to achieve her doctorate at the University of Southern California then achieve her CEO position at the Aerospace Corporation. She didn’t do this by accident. She did all this by remaining true to who she was, by remaining human. I think we all need to be reminded to be ourselves, to be like Dr. Austin.

“It’s not about whether you have a title that implies leadership. It’s about how you take advantage of every opportunity to help everybody who’s around you.” – Dr. Wanda Austin, former CEO of The Aerospace Corporation

Okay so true, no one has ever compared my leadership style to that of an authoritarian or dictator, but it’s still not easy being ourselves even when we are, does that make sense?

Absolutely it does. Women, from the time they are little girls, are railroaded by everything and everyone around them as far as expectations of leadership, and more importantly the lack thereof. 

We fall and in lieu of being encouraged to get back up those around us are thankful we are on the floor. So many female leaders a don’t wish success for anyone other than themselves and their actions support those views. I’ve seen it firsthand so many times, and so have you Caz. Their scarcity mindset drives human behaviors especially leading ladies with that mentality iand it shows.   

Superhero Girls
Leading Ladies

And sometimes it’s just enough that our own mindsets shift and our growth and potential ceases to exist. We lose ourselves and forget the dynamic legendary leading ladies we actually are. Because we begin to doubt ourselves just like everyone else does. 

Not everyone, Caz, not everyone doubts our badassery. I think I forget that a lot. How important it is that someone believes in you. I guess maybe, deep down, that’s part of why I am naturally drawn to mentor relationships. I guess my mind knows me better than I know myself, and knows that I need to shift my mindset back to believing in myself. The best way to do that is to see what others see in me. So thank you for being my mentor today Caz Muske. 

Here is a reminder you do not have to have all the answers. The phenomenal part about being a leader is surrounding yourself with material experts who rock their crafts. Also a reminder that being a female leader is something awesome. We can literally run an entire country with a baby in our hands. Case and point – Jacinda Ardern, Prime Minister of New Zealand:

Congratulatory Message
The Female Lead, Non-profit Organization Management

In closing, thank you Sarah for including this Government Misfit on today’s journey. It’s been a great reminder to be proud of being a lioness and that there’s always more power in a pack. So, find your pack and conquer the world, together.


Sarah & Caz

ELGL Misfits


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