Since I became an administrator, I have had a yearly performance evaluation. Over all, they have been positive, but I am consistently criticized for one thing, year after year: my lack of “swagger.”
It is a confusing thing to be criticized for. When I look up “swagger” on dictionary.com,  I find:
–verb (used without object)
1. to walk or strut with a defiant or insolent air.
2. to boast or brag noisily.
–verb (used with object)
3. to bring, drive, force, etc., by blustering.
4. swaggering manner, conduct, or walk; ostentatious display of arrogance and conceit.
It is difficult for me to believe that this is a desirable quality. Swaggering makes me think of bullies and cowboys; it is very macho.
Is it swagger that I need to be successful as an administrator? When I was a full-time teacher, the qualities that made me successful were patience, knowledge, authority, and perhaps my sense of humor. These qualities made my students feel comfortable and helped bring them together. However, in my role as an administrator, I have been trying to develop my swagger. I have a fancier notebook and nicer pens. I wear more blazers. I think before I speak. I smile less. I feel lonelier.
Moving from a teaching role to an administrative role was moving from a traditionally female role to a typically male role. When I was teaching, it was easy and natural for me to be in a collaborative, friendly environment. Administration is more competitive, political, and ruthless. I need to rely on a different skill set to navigate my way.
Although I have made improvements, I still feel like I am missing the mark. I know that I don’t actually want a swagger. I want to improve my confidence. I want to raise my game. What is the feminine form of swagger?
From the archives - this post was originally published at http://uvenus.org  on 2010.03.26.