I’m fascinated by the art and science of leadership, especially women in leadership.
Some of the current facts about this topic really and properly bother me. For example, the number of women in leadership globally is in decline, with women holding less than a quarter of senior global roles and the number of female CEOs falling by 25% between 2017 and 2018.
And then there’s the John Conundrum. It’s simultaneously amusing and alarming that there are more CEOs, senior leaders, senators, and governors named John in the USA right now than there are female equivalents.
This makes me both sad and curious. What opportunities, conversations, and ideas do our communities, our countries and our organisations miss out on, when we don’t have an equal balance of men and women around the leadership table?
In such a time of progress, and simultaneous disruption, I believe that women are part of the solution. I believe that we can bring a richer, more diverse, differentiated leadership perspective.
In the context of all sorts of disruptive change, surely the place to start is to truly know ourselves.
Michelle Obama said: “As women and young girls, we have to invest time in getting to understand who we are and liking who we are”.
If we can be true to ourselves then we can encourage those we lead to do the same. This means committing to a lifelong investment in personal understanding and growth, and inspiring and supporting others in this endeavour too. I have no doubt that every discussion or decision – whether it be at a board meeting, community group or family dining table – would be enriched by all contributors feeling confident and comfortable to bring their full authentic selves. As a leader, what are you doing to know, and grow, yourself?
I have a strong aversion to the idea that women need to ‘find’ their voice as if it was lost somewhere and needed rescued. I think we need to be supported by workplace cultures, leaders and ways of working that allow us space to bring our voices. We can be those leaders who ask others their opinion with the express intent of seeking to understand. We can create meetings where both introverted and extroverted preferences can co-exist and co-create. We can ensure experts are at the table, irrespective of seniority or tenure. As leaders, find ways to help others bring their voice and look for ways to bring yours. Speak your truth even if your voice shakes and even when it feels tough! As Brené Brown says, “people are hard to hate close up!”
What if being more human could create better workplaces? And what if female leaders were predisposed to bring this gift? Doctor Musimbi Kanyoro has been the CEO and President of the Global Fund for Women since August 2011. She says attitudes toward leadership are changing – that there is a growing appreciation of those traits that women use to keep families together, to organise volunteers, to unite and make change in communities. What I might describe as the skills of being human. These characteristics notable among female leaders are compassion, making the workplace feel safe, showing empathy, innovation and creativity, thinking more holistically, collaboration by bringing teams together and facilitating an open exchange of ideas.
In our teams, in our organisations, and in our communities we can proudly own and apply these female traits, and ignite them in other female leaders to bring about a different type of leadership.
Being you, being heard and being human. These simple (and yet not easy) ideas might just be the key to helping women leaders contribute in a different - more diverse, more honest, kinder - way that this disrupted world so desperately needs.
Lynne-Marie Howden is our Customer Experience Director. She has a passion for making sure that we provide a legendary experience to our customers at every turn. Learn more about Lynne-Marie here.