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  • Writer's pictureCaleb Jost

Navy vet: ‘Women! Stop ‘leading like men”

By: Emily Douglas

For Jenn Donahue, being the only woman in the room is normal. A former Naval officer, civil engineer, and business founder, Donahue’s no stranger to leadership. Having led reconnaissance missions from earthquakes and tsunamis, built bridges across the Euphrates river in the midst of the Iraq war, and served as technical expert on seismology in five nuclear power plants, Donahue knows a thing or two about commanding respect. Speaking to HRD, she revealed that it’s high time women in the workplace stop trying act out a traditionally ‘male’ approach to management.

“We need to stop ‘leading like men’,” she told HRD. “You don’t have to be a ‘yeller’ to command respect and loyalty from your team. One of my first tasks when I was a junior officer was to lead a department of about 13 people – bearing in mind I’d never lead before. I looked at the men who were my superiors and they were all yellers. That’s how they motivated their team, that’s how they pushed them to be better. And so, I thought – ‘okay, I’m going to have to start shouting’. I equated yelling with leadership – which is simply not the case.

“It eventually got to the point where I realized that this just wasn’t me. I felt really awful about it actually. It was confusing because this was the way I’d been taught to lead – this is how I thought I had to lead – but at the same time I knew it wasn’t right.”

Donahue took some time to self-reflect and even partook in a personality quiz – just to see if that held any answers.

“The test told me things I didn’t realize about myself,” she explained. “I’m a compassionate leader, I’m a selfless leader. There were all attributes I possessed that I didn't know I had. And I could use these characteristics to lead in my own way. It’s super important do conduct a self-analysis and understand who you are as a leader, before you can lead other people.”

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