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The Way Out of the Likeability Trap

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Ask most women what they’re job is and they’ll give you the same answer.

To be liked.

To be affable and pleasant and approachable is our full-time, round-the-clock, no-off-switch kind of job that’s baked into every single position regardless of how high up we are.

The pressure to please is ingrained, and we all feel it.

It’s the infamous catch-22 we’re forever balancing on the blade of.

If you’re not nice or liked?

Your strength is too much, perceived as a threat and there’s no easy way to rise.

If you’re too nice or too liked?

Your weakness means you can’t possibly be a great leader who makes the tough calls, pushes back, and can captain a difficult situation.

The game is rigged and it’s enough for some women to quit playing altogether.

But without women at the top, we forfeit making the kinds of big changes we need to be in positions of power to make!

So what do we do?


First, acknowledge the lose-lose reality of the double bind whereby strength and weakness are determined for us and used against us. It’s just a fact and acknowledging it actually goes a long way in helping us recognize why the climb is so tough.


It’s really easy to get into an “Us vs. Them” mentality in a situation like this – and I don’t just mean calling out all white guys at the top, but being equally as brutal by judging really nice women as lacking leadership material. It goes both ways, and it’s gotta stop. If we want systemic change, it’s going to take more than just us or all women to do it. We need to inform, dare I say enlighten, men and women around us who are unaware of the constant challenges that come in the way of women having a real chance to rise and we’re not going to do that by guilting, judging them, or berating just one side (the men) to do something. We need to be open, collaborative, and curious so we can create the right space to have a discussion and innovate ways to get out of this double bind.


When I first came to the United States, I knew I had to work harder to stand out and show my stripes, to not only be on par with but far exceed what others around me were doing in order to get the same opportunities. I accepted that because I was grateful to play the game at all. There weren’t the same kinds of opportunities in Kenya, where I grew up, so I didn’t care if the cards were stacked against me – participating was enough! I’m not saying we should all just suck it up, but this is a process. It doesn’t instantly go from “Accept it as it is and push through” to “Fuck it, I’m out!” A part of you needs to treat this as a challenge to overcome rather than an obstacle that stops you.

My point is, that neither the status quo nor quitting solves the double bind.

What we can do is acknowledge what is, keep up the fight, and keep pushing the limits anyway.

Don’t quit the good work you’re doing.

We need you to help make things better,

to be more inclusive,

to drop our judgments and

change the fucking world.



You’re an ambitious woman with a game-changing vision for the world.

You’ve never doubted that.

But your current blueprint isn’t working.

You feel stuck in imposter syndrome, in perpetual burn-out, in old beliefs that keep you in old behaviors, in fighting tooth and nail for every promotion and position. You want to feel sought after, not invisible, confident, not passed over, in charge, not at the whim of corporate winds.

There’s a better way.

With my program, The Powerhouse Blueprint, you will start to evolve from workhorse to powerhouse in just three months using the three cornerstones of a natural and balanced leader: presence, strategy, and influence.

Want to learn how YOU can become a powerhouse and change the trajectory of your career? Sign up for your free consult to learn more.

Pooja Dang is a Women’s Executive Leadership Coach based in the San Francisco Bay Area, serving clients globally at companies such as Google, GoPro, Dropbox, and more. With over 15 years of experience in coaching, advising, and propelling women towards rapid career advancement and promotion, she specializes in high-impact workshops and dynamic 1:1 coaching, delivering breakthrough outcomes and accelerated change. Pooja has a proven track record of coaching women into the C-suite and is a trusted expert in growing executive presence, expanding influence, high-stakes negotiations, and leadership development. Using proven scientific strategies, transformative behavior tools, and a no-BS approach, Pooja is on a mission to empower more women to live confidently at the top of their game. Book your free consultation today. #ExecutiveCoach #LeadershipDevelopment #WomenInLeadership #BehaviorChange #CsuiteCoaching


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