It’s difficult to open an article on women in leadership without thinking of the women in power we are shown in the media. Those in politics, the glamourous magazines, serious media or Hollywood. The women who embody entirely different worlds, hold great power in wholly different ways, and yet are often judged by the same [...]
Unconscious bias can mean we made decisions that get in our way – and taking the time to understand why we make those choices, and where those assumptions come from, can lead to us reconsidering and embracing a wider range of influences – which can take us much further on the road to success. In [...]
However much we tell ourselves that we are unbiased and progressive, we all have unconscious bias – and it’s up to us how much we let that influence our leadership. The very definition of unconscious bias is that it’s a bias we aren’t even aware we have. Our upbringing, background, cultural environment, the social circles [...]
Leadership pipelines, succession planning and talent development are on-going organisational headaches. A recent McKinsey Insights article agreed, arguing that “Organizations should learn to hunt, fish, and trawl for the best talent.” The problem seems to be one of diversity: where they cast their nets – and what or who they are aiming to catch. Most organisations (or at least those that don’t recruit inward, despite the costs and risks associated) rely on in-house programmes with pre-determined selection criteria. But are they looking for HiPos when they should try a different kettle of fish? Few organisations, McKinsey argue: […] scan systematically for the hidden talent that often lurks unnoticed within their own corporate ranks. Sometimes those overlooked leaders remain invisible because of gender, racial, or other biases. Others may have unconventional backgrounds, be reluctant to put themselves forward, or have fallen off (or steered clear of) the standard development path. That selection and promotion are areas of life where (un)conscious bias is a contentious and troublesome issue is not news, even if that does not necessarily translate into corrective action. But the tendency in many organisations to base criteria on ‘tried and tested’ leadership attributes may also be a growing issue, especially in times of rapid change and rising turbulence. Echoing the findings of the 2017 Edelman Trust Barometer (which we have previously commented on), the 2016 Ketchum Leadership Communication Monitor reports dismal levels of public support for the effectiveness of leaders. Unlike Edelman, it also explores the type of leadership that would be more appreciated – and finds that a higher percentage believe that leadership would be more effective coming from the company/organization overall and everyone within it than would place their faith in either the CEO or senior management. […]
Are women in leadership really as different as we’re led to believe? In recent years, we’ve begun to see an increase – some might say a long overdue increase – in women entering the top positions, bringing with them a new approach to leadership and managing complex business situations in a world that’s currently full of challenge and antagonism. With a female PM stepping in to guide the country through the response to a controversial referendum, a woman coming close to the top job in the USA and an increase in female CEOs on the world stage, has leadership changed in response? Many believe that men and women lead differently, focusing on different skills and approaches. But is this down to gender differences, or is it simply a change triggered by necessity when the world as a whole has changed and the way we lead must adapt to suit? With so much focus on the gender differences, are we blinded to the more complex needs of our team? After all, there are a great many factors that determine who we are – and what makes us unique – other than the sex we individually happen to be. Is categorising your workforce by gender truly going to help you to better connect to them, develop them and get the best from every member of the team? One area in which people believe women lead differently is in their’ humanity’ – their ‘soft skills’ approach to managing business. But is this, perhaps, less to do with being female and more to do with the proven successes of understanding your employees as complex individuals, and of communicating more openly as a way to create more connected, content and committed workers? […]
Without demonstrating or proving the real benefits of having women in leadership roles, we are producing statistics rather than progress. In March 2016, Management Today published an article, Which FTSE boards have female directors?, There is, of course, a simple and straightforward response: 20. But corporate responses to issues of diversity, gender included, are rarely simple [...]
Is it too critical, or too nuanced, to suggest that it’s not just the visibility of female role models that is an issue ? Visibility – and more fundamentally, existence – is certainly important: the vast literature of leadership development and behavioural change provide endless examples of the power of modelling what you wish to create, rather than merely calling for or espousing it. Without role models, the idea that something is possible is far harder to grasp or conceive.
Harriet Green OBE has many outstanding qualities: attracting attention to her opinions, her abilities and to herself are just three of them, judging by coverage in recent days in The Times and The Telegraph. Her business abilities clearly extend to knowing which elements of a story will capture both an audience’s and a journalist’s attention: her message to other women to contact blue chip company Chairs directly rather than using headhunters or recruitment consultants – and using her own example as evidence of the success of this approach – makes no mention, for example, that she holds an OBE and is a member of the UK Prime Minister's Business Advisory Group. Not everyone who is chipping away at the glass ceiling possesses quite such a diamond-tipped chisel. I hope that it’s not cynicism that leaves me wondering whether chutzpah alone would have been quite so effective.