06/07/2013 05:32 pm ET Updated Aug 07, 2013

Mutually Exclusive: Likeability vs. Success for Women Leaders

Marianne Cooper, lead researcher for Sheryl Sandberg's Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead, recently published an HBR Blog explaining that the data clearly shows that success and likeability do not go together for women.

The blog raises the issue many women struggle with regarding likeability and the challenges faced regarding certain elements of leadership. As she mentions in her article,

...when acting authoritatively, women leaders are disliked much more than men. To be clear, it is not that women are always disliked more than men when they are successful, but that they are often penalized when they behave in ways that violate gender stereotypes.

We as women need to the ability to both leverage our feminine leadership characteristics like inclusiveness, development focus, and strong interpersonal skills and balance them with authority -- a characteristic necessary in all leaders. Sometimes, we need verification from a peer group that we are doing the right thing, especially when faced with the frustrating fallout of our likability taking a hit for no reason other than we are women.

It's evident that there's a new wave of interest in executive feminism. More than ever before, women across the nation are discussing their role in the workforce, their impact on the business landscape, and their involvement and commitment to their own careers. A great example is Pamela Ryckman's new book, The Stiletto Network, where she observes ambitious women from all over the country who have harnessed their collective wisdom to change the way power is allocated and business practiced.

She describes how "Stiletto Networks" are cropping up at an unprecedented rate. Watermark is an example of such a group (although we're celebrating our 20th Anniversary this year), as a community that supports other women by offering a peer group who serve as a personal support system. Women need a place where they can check in to see if they're balancing the need for authoritative action with humanistic leadership.

Watermark women offer one another a place to check in and bounce ideas off one another before taking action. It's an opportunity to discuss our feelings about the challenges we face at work in a judgment-free environment of support. This community of peers assists us all in challenging the stereotype of women leaders and ultimately changing our companies and communities.

Are you part of a "Stiletto Network", thinking about joining one, or starting one yourself? If so, I encourage you to plunge in and reap all the benefits of a women's networking community. You might be surprised at the enormous impact it will have on your life and on your career.