More Women Leaders, Please

Posted by on Mar 1, 2012 in Blog, Media | Comments Off on More Women Leaders, Please

More Women Leaders, Please

Women’s Leadership is a broad term.

That is a funny sentence…let’s look at it again.  The undercurrent of symantics makes a difference, doesn’t it?  Let’s look again and get some clarity and focus on this thing called Women Leadership.

How do you look at women leaders?  What are the characteristics of a strong woman leader that come to mind for you?  Is the woman that jumps to mind more feminine or does she have more masculine traits?  Is she a “broad”?

Like everything else, women in leadership are evolving.  The days of women having to dress like and behave like men in order to be seen as strong leaders are quickly coming to an end….right?  I hope so and I say so, but we all need to raise our awareness in order to make it so.

Take an inventory of what you think strong leadership qualities for women might be and boldly ask yourself if those traits are different for men.  With the acknowledgement that in some organizations there is still a business culture of chauvinism or discrimination that minimizes fair opportunities, we need to be careful to make sure we do not make the mistake of assuming its existence as if it is something that can not be altered.   In order to make sure the leadership playing field improves, we need to find the prejudices that may still exist in our own thinking – hunt them down, call them out, challenge them and change them.  Once we can change our own automatic thoughts, we can change what happens in the world around us.  We can support more women to step into leadership roles and more organizations to open the opportunities to the top levels.

When we cease to think of leadership traits as masculine or feminine and focus more on effective leadership as it relates to the success of all people and overall organizations, we will get closer to widening the opportunities for great leaders to exist – regardless of gender.

To help get clear, here is a list of top leadership competencies identified Zenger Folkman Inc in 2011 and reported by the Harvard Business Review.  Read this over and imagine what this looks like – without assigning gender:

Develops Strategic Perspective

Technical or Professional Expertise

Connects their Group to the Outside World

Communicates Powerfully and Often

Solves Problems and Analyzes Issues

Champions Change

Establishes Stretch Goals

Collaboration and Teamwork

Builds Relationships

Inspires and Motivates Others

Develops Others

Drives for Results

Displays High Integity/Honesty

Practices Self-Development

Takes Initiative

These are the competencies that make a great leader; regardless of gender.  As you develop your own leadership skills, which of these competencies are your greatest strengths?  Where do you need to do some additional work?  How easy was it for you to read this list and NOT see gender?

With the exception of discrimination, the largest obstacles to becoming a great leader are complacency and extreme risk aversion.  Leaders who know this and can step past fear and stay engaged are creating the greatest change in this world.  So, with all of this talk about leadership not being gender specific, then why do I push so hard for more women leaders?

Bottom line is this:  Women make up more than half of the population on this planet and yet they are barely represented in top decision making, leadership ranks.  This is out of balance.  Bringing a balanced perspective that encompasses the views, skills, talent and perspective of both men and women who possess exceptional leadership competencies is what makes the most sense to me when I think about how to improve the human condition across the world.

Women Changing the World requires more valuable women to be in leadership.