Sunday, October 7, 2012

The Rise Of Female Leadership

"A mythical bird that never dies, the Phoenix flies far ahead to the front, always scanning the landscape and distant space. It represents our capacity for vision, for collecting sensory information about our environment and the events unfolding within it. The phoenix, with its great beauty, creates intense excitement and deathless inspiration." - Lam Kam Chuen


Organizational leadership is like an exothermic reaction that releases energy when new bonds are formed.
Unfortunately, some organizations have stopped creating new bonds.
They try hard not to be criticized. They try to script customer service. They attempt to run like well-oiled machines.
Forget the ‘well-oiled machine’ metaphor.
"That was then. Today many pundits and theorists describe [successful organizations] as living beings.” – Wally Bock
Living systems have an inner life, react to changes in the environment, grow and evolve.
The way we do and think about business has changed and is changing: Companies can adapt or become extinct

How will organizations stay competitive?


Pied Piper’s magical melody lured all the rats out of the city of Hamelin and into the Weser River where they drowned. The townspeople, though happy Pied Piper had rid them of the rats, decided not to pay him .

A few weeks later, Pied Piper returned. This time, he was playing a different melody; one that attracted all the children of the town - who followed him and were never seen again.

~ German legend

The Pied Piper was a magnificent leader if you define leadership in terms of getting people to follow you or exerting influence. He was action-oriented and had a firm sense of direction. But he was clearly misguided. So were the townspeople. What they thought was a marvelous idea (keeping their gold) turned out to be a disastrous decision with dire consequences.

Leadership in the 21st century is not like that. Directions won’t be fixed, focus won’t be static.
NOW Leadership principles are based on values, not preferences or linear results. 

We need to balance the Pied Piper in all of us with awareness, introspection, inclusion and kindness. And yes, these happen to be signature female traits.


Goldman Sachs named 110 Partners in November 2010 (a prestigious title that comes with lots of money and shares of stock).

"These appointments recognize some of the firm's most valued senior professionals and acknowledge their leadership and contribution to the firm's culture of excellence," say CEO and COO Blankfein and Cohn.
Sadly, only 16 out of the 110 new partners were women, roughly 15%.SOURCE

What an outrage! But who am I kidding? No one seems to be grossly offended. News like this is far too common.
To a certain extent, we all do it - discriminate.
If you’ve grown up eating potatoes for dinner, you are likely to prefer those, passing up other alternatives that are theoretically just as good

In business, we cannot afford to eat potatoes every day. We need to consciously practice inclusion so we can adapt quickly and seamlessly when necessary (it's live or die).

Diversity is a strategic advantage. Darwin would call it an organizational fitness signal marking health and intelligence.


The effectiveness of a group is dependent on the decisions that are made.
It’s no secret that more information leads to better decisions

I would guess that about 35 percent of the decisions I make are bad, probably more. There are many reasons we make bad decisions, but one stands out: impaired reception.
Case in point: When I first heard about the BP oil spill disaster in the Gulf of Mexico, I felt supportive of a neighborhood BP gas station boycott. Later, I learned this: 

"Ron Rybacki has owned the Cotswold BP station on Randolph Road for six years. Before that, the father of his brother-in-law owned the station for 25 years. […] ‘It's a locally owned and family owned business,’ Rybacki said. ‘We don't need anything like that.’”
"Local BP station owners are just trying to make a living […]”Charlotte Observer

From a multitude of bits and pieces of information, we develop what matters.
How can we increase our chances of making good decisions? By being less scared of uncertainty and strengthening reception.

So should managers embrace ambiguity?
Not at all. Managers should strive to deal in certainties/minimize risks (adapted from Mike Myatt), but must keep their three eyes and ears open, and not jump to conclusions for the sake of escaping ambiguity.

Tomorrow's leaders listen today with a sharp ear and open heart. They practice to include and discard, surrender and resist.

Using peripheral vision and perceiving nuances of change, they remain curious and receptive (women are naturally great at this).

A few weekends ago, my husband and I watched La Vie En Rose, my movie pick for the night, followed by Above The Rim, my husband’s pick. You probably couldn’t find two movies much different, yet they told a similar story: life is tough.

That’s what makes it beautiful.

Focus meets possibilities, diversity finds unity, complexity turns into simplicity. New bonds form.
Can organizations be headed in the wrong direction? Can they be unhealthy? Fall to temptation? Absolutely. We have seen and learned that dangers don’t have to be external; they can lurk within. It’s time to adapt.

Women leaders bring unique skills and perspectives into an organization that are necessary for it to survive.

Female leadership represents "our capacity for vision, for collecting sensory information about our environment and the events unfolding within it.”
Women leaders are not better than their male counterparts, only different. And we need them.
Just like every bird needs two wings to fly.

Here is a small selection of great women leaders I follow online:

A few great blogs written by men who (I think) do a great job of balancing their masculinity (?):

Bradley J. Moore Matthew Polkinghorne Dan McCathy
Tony Schwartz John Bishop Tom Peters
Wally Bock Jim Stroup Mitch Ditkoff
Mark Graban Scott Gould David Everitt-Carlson

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