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