Executive Leadership Coaching and Mentoring
I RECENTLY READ this exciting new white paper written by Greg Young CEO of LeaderShape Global published by Routledge and feel compelled to develop
some of my own thinking:
On reading the white paper, which is full of evidence in support of the slightly controversial title (which doesn’t have a question mark as I have placed after it) I feel there is a huge amount to commend the argument. I would of course say that being a woman myself…. However, I am also a leader of some considerable experience, which certainly has not been universally positive in terms of my experiences of women, so it made me think – are women naturally better leaders?
The research that LeaderShape have done on emotional intelligence and the competencies for transpersonal leadership are certainly in line with my own experiences and academic understanding. My journey has taken me through a career as a nurse and midwife with an advanced diploma in midwifery, before a long career as a Board Director and now some 9 years as an organisation consultant, facilitator and executive coach, with the latter complemented with an MSc and PGC from Ashridge with underpinning theoretic frameworks around relational consulting and coaching; meaning we do things ‘in relationship’ to effect change and co-create culture, behaviours and leadership/ followership dynamics.
In the process of the master’s degree, which was a journey of self-awareness and curiosity, being encouraged to notice and suspend judgement in order to understand, get underneath and work with ‘what is’. I also explored how ‘being a midwife’ was still with me, having honed my senses and orientated me towards working alongside, facilitating the others’ process. I thought about midwifery and recalled having trained two male midwives – yes male midwives, not ‘mid-husbands’! Midwife means in old English ‘With Woman’ and there are certain qualities which I believe midwives need in order to best ‘facilitate the others’ process. One of which is empathy.
I further developed this curiosity and inquiry when I undertook my dissertation and explored the work of Kathleen King (Critchley, King and Higgins 2007) who had studied the work of Fletcher (1999) and Gilligan (1993) amongst others looking at the effect of gender and relational practice and of psychological theory and women’s development.
They had come to the view, as had King, that it was not gender that was a determinant but rather ‘feminine and masculine behaviours’ which could be present in both men and women. These being feminine behaviours of community and collaboration and masculine behaviours of agency, self-determination focus. This also resonated with my own experience, where I have experienced women who are totally ‘agentic’ in their behaviours, only interested in ‘driving ahead to reach their own ends no matter who they trample on’.
But let’s not look at this simplistically, being a transpersonal leader, ethically orientated, also requires a moral compass. Having empathy and emotional intelligence is not the only aspect. We could certainly have immoral, emotionally intelligent leaders, and, personality preferences, which we are born with, do come into this. Research of Myers Briggs shows that there is no gender preference in all but one preference the T-F ‘Thinking-Feeling’preference. ‘Thinkers’ are logical and make decisions objectively standing outside and ‘Feelers’ step into a situation to feel how it might be, thereby linking to a more empathetic stance. Research shows that there are more women than men with a natural F preference.
So what does all this lead to in my analysis and commentary? In the white paper Greg talks about the fact that we are slowly going through a societal change which allows the natural qualities that women have to come to the fore and that being the case demonstrates them as being better equipped for leadership in the 21st century. I too think that may be the case and that a lot of those qualities have been suppressed in the past, with those women learning competitive behaviours in order to succeed. Indeed, having done my own MBTI profile 6 times over the past 30 years I have moved from an ENTJ to an ENFJ and I realise that I had deliberately suppressed the F preference in order to be an ‘acceptable’ board member.
Furthermore, I think the real issue is valuing feminine qualities of collaboration and community, in balance with masculine behaviours, which may be present in both men and women, and, if so valued we will naturally allow those women who have those qualities to come through with confidence, authenticity and integrity, role modelling and co-creating the behaviours we need to survive in the 21st century.
‘Interested in Women in Leadership? Then why not join the @LeaderShapeUK twitter chat? Mon 7th Nov 2016 10.00 – 11.00 a.m UK time. Follow: #WomenLeadership’.
King K, (2007) in Critchley, King and Higgins organisational Consulting: A Relational Perspective: Middlesex University Press
Fletcher JK, (1999) Disappearing Acts: Gender, Power and Relational Practice at Work. Cambridge MA: MIT Press
Gilligan, C (1993) In a Different Voice. Psychological Theory and Women’s Development. Cambridge MA: Harvard University Press
ON INTERNATIONAL Women’s Day 2016, a look at LeaderShape’s data indicates that women are naturally better leaders for the 21st Century. Are we alone in this view? Well, the short answer is no. A broad ranging international study by global company Mercer entitled ‘When Women Thrive’ agrees.
What is special about leadership in the 21st century as opposed to the last? Well, we have perennial concerns of globalisation, technology and pace of change. But some other factors are emerging. The concept that the sole purpose of a company is to deliver shareholder value is being challenged. More companies now recognise that collaborative, rather than competitive behaviour creates more success. Ethical behaviour of companies is also coming to the fore, with the activities of those that have been downright corrupt,or at least economical with the truth, suffering financial penalties.
Are women well placed to lead in this century? The data shows they have all the right attributes including empathy, change catalyst, inspirational leadership. More than that, there are a number of reports that demonstrate that companies with women on the Board perform better. There are now women on the Board of every FTSE 100 company. This sounds great on paper but in practice most women are in NED positions, so one could argue the real power is being controlled by the men.
Getting an Edge, Avoiding Tokenism
Clearly, men play a big part in women getting the real power in companies. The enlightened ones recognise and embrace the strength and diversity of opinion women bring. Yet others steadfastly cling on to the old ways, harking back to when they were successful- they fail to recognise that this was in a different context, on another day. Some sectors are worse than others: a recent report showed that 1 in 3 Technology CEOs don’t think gender diversity is important. Congratulations to the 38% of those that do but the remainder do not. According to the report, most Tech CEOs rate a specific expertise very or extremely important. The fact is, they’re just not getting it. Technical expertise is ROI positive, potentially mission critical – necessary but insufficient. What will keep the company ahead is thought-diversity. So, having women on your Board and exploiting that thought-diversity is what will give your company a competitive edge. Having women on the Board as tokenism merely adds ballast to the payroll.
Most development programmes are still structured around a male dominated world.”
Women can also be their own worst enemy. LeaderShape’s data show that the two areas where women don’t score as well as men are self-confidence and emotional self-control. The LEIPA tool*, which based on a 360 format highlights this. The instrument compares observed behaviour against ideal, so the closer to ideal you perform, the better you do. We find that women consistently mark themselves poorly, so their self rating shows them to be pretty poor performers across all the Emotional Intelligence (EI) competencies. But being 360 format, when they see the scores that colleagues have given them, their hidden strengths (determined by the difference between their own scores and that of their colleagues) shine out and are usually manifold. This in itself can be incredibly reaffirming, but it seems to be a real issue that women will naturally undermine their own achievements, be afraid of being found out and suffer from low self-confidence. It then becomes self-fulfilling, especially if you add on that other EI competency where women score less well, emotional self-control.
Development programmes in many companies have yet to join the 21st century. They are still structured around a male dominated world, where the candidate puts themselves forward for the new job if they think they can do half of it and they will blag the rest. To develop a really good 21st century development culture, then the company must work with its employees (especially the women) and say, ‘What do we have to do so you are comfortable applying for that next job?’
At the moment, the prediction is that it will take more than 40 years before corporate boards reach a 50-50 gender split. Those that will really thrive will recognise that this is the century of women in leadership …and make it happen.
Follow me: @LeaderShapeGreg
LeaderShape CEO, Greg Young, is delighted to help break down barriers and build new heights as a judge for the European Women In Construction and Engineering awards. He will be available to meet at the Judging Day Forum, Thursday 21st April or the Awards Dinner Thursday 19th May . Find out about joining him here.
When Women Thrive – report by Mercer
HONESTY & INTEGRITY, followed by self-awareness are key to Transpersonal Leaders – our very senior colleagues are telling us. Our short survey attracted good interest – and a vibrant discussion.
60% were in complete accord about the Key Quality you Value most in Leaders.
Honesty and integrity are the starting point; the leader should know about themselves and then have the courage to move themselves and others towards the greater good. If you don’t have courage- you cannot foray into unknown territories to achieve goals- neither can you look inside for strength but those goals cannot be achieved without honesty and integrity in the long run.
A number of you say the central principal is to lead by example. A company head explains: “If I am preaching honesty and integrity as core values of the organization, I, as leader, must be the first one to display them.”
The second most highly rated value was self-awareness, referenced by over half of our respondents. Many believed by lacking self-awareness “One may make the wrong decisions.” For a number of leaders, self-awareness is the first step in development. “Without it, it is hard to improve as a person.”
Of course leadership is about taking decisions and standing by them – requiring courage, as mentioned above. This was the next most important attribute to you, mentioned by almost 50% of those who responded. The cascade effect on employees and reports is crucial to leaders’ thinking. “A leader needs to demonstrate clear values in order for colleagues to also behave with honesty and integrity,” says one. Another adds: “Setting the right examples, strong character and value systems are very critical.” In some feedback, courage was labelled as “resilience to be able to cope with headwinds and setbacks.” The desire was evident for leaders to be “a strong role model for more of what you are trying to lead.”
Many leaders agree that people look for and seek out authenticity. “Great leaders need to lead by example and be open and transparent in relation to everything they do. It can’t be one rule for the leader and another for everyone else. Authenticity allows for credibility and inspires others.” For others, empathy is close behind in the league table – ranked with nearly 40% approval. “If you understand the person, you can support them to grow and shine.” Leaders of companies of all sizes concurred with the view “A bedrock of trust is essential between you and those you lead and that starts with empathy – building a bridge across and between, with courage to be vulnerable and true.”
The synergy of the answers was remarkable regarding One additional quality our leaders value. Whether called vision and mission, being visionary or visioning – this is the lodestone for many of you. “The leader should imagine the vision and mission and then make them real. They must be able to articulate the bigger picture to their groups and motivate people towards it. This is the ability to think beyond the obvious, connecting the dots and be futuristic.”
Drive and focus makes leaders “effective,” and this was also called “decisiveness.”
Significantly, the ability to make a decision was highly valued, with an understanding that it may not always be the right one, and the humility to admit it later on! Humility and also transpersonal leadership are bedrocks for our respondents. “It is important to control the ego and to do the right things without always expecting recognition. Curiosity is needed because without it there will not be a willingness to learn and take your own personal development seriously. Relationship management is the ultimate consideration, because nobody leads alone!”
Disconcertingly, there is a great deal of disillusion with the kinds of executive coaching on offer. More than one in ten saw no change at all after senior management were involved in (non-LeaderShape) leadership courses and only 13% saw positive change. However, this did not last. Without leadership skills being embedded, participants reverted to old, bad habits in at least one in five cases. Worse, 7% reported a worsening of the situation after managers undertook some sort of unspecified training!
Comments were quite scathing in some cases:
“There is too much top-down, figure-based management withour understanding and it is focused on short term goals,” was typical of this feedback.
Others felt they received good leadership coaching that was then ignored. “A much under-rated learning from my leadership training was that imagination is probably more important than intelligence!” (LeaderShape’s John Knights adds: “unless it is emotional intelligence!”)
However, the up-sum was quite inspirational- with a real understanding of leadership roles. “The difference between a leader and a manager to me is in one word. Inspire -isn’t that what leaders do!?”
FOLLOWING LEADERSHAPE’S THREAD on Chinese views of leadership, another global power has added to the debate on Transpersonal Leadership (beyond the ego) – India! Our Senior Advisor in India, Anant Nadkarni, takes up the conversation:
” When you say leadership pervades the whole organisation and beyond, it perhaps endorses that the essence is to design structures with minimum functional needs; let’s assume we are people working here and each one needs space, appropriate empowerment, sensitivity, acknowledgement with freedom of self-expression. So the logical aspect is balanced with the ‘organic’ prerequisite for full human development and growth.
It follows that, at all points in an organisation each one has to take very small risks, initiatives, a bit of courage, sometimes criticism and go beyond mere competence to express the basics of leadership – that everyone has more potential than can be assumed. These and other elements are present in all of us and need encouragement. It is really about global ideological acceptance on increasing ‘freedom from control’ at work!
As far as interplay of the system and culture is concerned (with the importance of culture slightly above the system,) it is precisely the edge on which ‘individual and institutional’ balance of satisfaction turns. In fact a great organisation is one where we believe that the individual is important. Everything begins with the self, reflection and mastery that leads to influence, creating resonant circles of excellence in behaviour, out of choice! The system is then merely a ‘boundary’ line or enabler.
For example, at Tata, where I was VP Group Corporate Sustainability, there is a “Tata way” (the system) that guides, only when required, and “Tataness” – a unique tradition of typical behaviour. Strategy is embedded into companies within their ‘culture’ which has a sectoral and historical flavour. At the group level, Tata has core values on a shared agreement; companies using the brand align even though they have fiercely independent Boards managing within their own culture. As group head, I had to “evolve” group policies rather than trying to “prescribe” any new ones.
In the end, as Lao Tsu (a great Chinese philosopher) said “A leader is best when people barely know he exists, when his work is done, his aim fulfilled, they will say: we did it ourselves.”
Take a look at LeaderShape’s unique FREE app, LeaderShaper to evaluate leadership competence – a tool for leaders in a global environment.
The original article – The Ancient Chinese Science of Organisational Transformation – can be found here.