Vision, Strategy and Networking

In my new book I explain why the idea of the "visionary leader" is a particular manifestation of the times in which it arose (late 70s early 80s). At that time, successful executives were responding to the external forces in the marketplace and transforming their organizations. Failing executives were not.

Imagine my delight this morning when I read of new research from Insead. Nothing surprising in the major findings...they mirror many other studies about which I've written:
"Research by Insead Professor Herminia Ibarra and PhD candidate Otilia Obodaru shows that women leaders are not perceived to be as strong as men when it comes to articulating a vision of the future and translating that vision into a strategic direction for the organisation...Ibarra and Obodaru studied the 360 degree reviews of more than 2,800 women. In all, they looked at 22,244 evaluations on a leadership assessment developed by Insead's Global Leadership Centre. They were surprised to find that women did as well or better than men in most categories. The exception was vision and that exception could be one reason why fewer women rise to the top jobs."
But what was refreshing was this:
Ibarra says the image of a man sitting on a mountaintop and suddenly gaining business insight is pervasive but doesn't really fit with reality. "The way you envision the future is by being out there and trying to understand trends in the industry, in society and talking to people – that is how you are able to formulate what are the threats and opportunities in your business and how that might match up to capabilities in your organisation."
While it's essential to understand trends and market forces, it's overly simplistic to say that you can envision the future by "talking to people" in order to understand trends. There is one category of "people" that transformative executives like Anne Mulcahy, CEO of Xerox and Ann Livermore EVP of HP talk with. They credit much of their success to being close to and listening to customers.

Lead On!
Susan Colantuono is CEO of Leading Women. She blogs on networking for PINK Magazine. Follow her on Twitter.


Barbara Weaver Smith said...

Nice analysis, Susan. I always appreciate a deeper understanding of data/information about women's performance in the business world. Listen to customers--what a concept!

Kate at said...

Great post!

Latest estimates put 80% of all household spending dollars in the hands of... WOMEN. That's extrapolated to over 1.7 trillion dollars.
Who better to know customers, trends and a vision of how best to glean these dollars than women.

In my opinion, women have the vision - but often time lack the confidence to articulate it and then the SUPPORT to execute that vision.

Susan Colantuono said...

Barbara and Kate. Thanks for your comments. My new book will have details about how Anne Mulcahy and Ann Livermore have used connections with customers to shape strategy...and an explanation of why the concept of "visionary leader" is flawed.

Michelle Girasole said...

Great post, Susan, as always.

So, if women have been historically proficient at "supporting" the vision of a company/leader (by networking/listening, etc.)...

and if, by becoming better at "articulating" that vision, we can move more comfortably into leadership roles....

then I hope your book addresses this dynamic with some ways to improve on these important skills.

Women are supposed to be good at communicating, right? Then why can't we communicate the vision, I wonder...

Susan Colantuono said...

Michelle, thanks for your comments. There are several chapters in the book that address strategy and strategic acumen...why women aren't perceived as having it and what to do about it!