“You are too strong for a woman,” he says, the VP of the board of directors with the military cut.  

It’s Alice in Wonderland as I feel myself shrink in the chair facing his big desk.

“Take it down a notch,” he barks.

Now I’m so small my feet don’t touch the ground, + my heart breaks. Quietly.

No one’s ever told me I was too strong.

“Sen daglarin anasisin. Daglari yikacak kadar guclusun.”

“You can move mountains.”

This is what my parents said to me every day growing up.

When this happens, I am 35, living in Fargo, North Dakota, far from my native country of Turkey where the blue Mediterranean swells + fierce Ottoman women rule.

Cut to a decade later, different organization, me sitting at my own formidable desk, + a staff member sitting across from me.

“You’ve simply got to do better,” I say sharply.

The staff member’s face reddens, then crumples, as fat tears spill down her cheeks.

This is my wake-up call. My lowest point. For in that moment, I realize I have become a bitch in heels.

Not strong, the way my Ottoman mother + aunts + grandmothers + ancestors were, as they lifted the country from ruin during WWI + into the current day.

No. This authority smacked of meanness. The opposite of my training. Because I stuffed down the true strength + grace my family + culture taught me, it came out harsh + cold. Cold + gray as the long Fargo winters.

This wasn’t me.

I flashed on the blue of the Mediterranean, which lies within me, vast + sparkling one minute, intense + direct the next.

That was the true leadership in my blood.

The blood of my grandmother, a teacher when women were not even allowed to leave the house. My mother, too. My people. They were the leaders.

Compassionate. Able to step back when others reaped rewards. The kind of gentle confident strength that moves mountains with a whisper. Or firm, loving word.

From that moment on, I reclaimed my leadership. The kind that sparkles with fierce firmness + softness all at once.

If you find yourself nodding as you read, if you want to have a conversation about leading as a woman,  email me – NukhetH@gmail.com.

 This is your time!  Lead powerfully. Lead Fearlessly.


Nukhet Hendricks


Nukhet Hendricks, originally from Turkey, has been calling the USA home since 1987 as a naturalized citizen. Nukhet holds a Master of Science degree in Public and Human Service Administration and has been a nonprofit executive for over 20 years in various leadership roles. Currently, she is the executive director of Danny & Ron’s Rescue.

She is a fiercely independent spiritual rebel and ocean lover with an unquenchable gypsy soul, always yearning for new frontiers!

She is also one of the co-authors of the books:

  • Feminine Voices – True Stories by Women Transforming Leadership (Heal My Voice, Publisher)
  • 365 Life Shifts (Jodi and Dan Chapman, Publisher)
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