A New Look at Leadership Development for Women

Over the years, I've been involved with Linkage through their Global Institute for Leadership Development and their Women in Leadership Summit. So I was delighted when I was contacted to take part in a series of interviews on leadership for a global research study on the identification and development of leaders. The result of this work will be in an upcoming book by Phil Harkins, the CEO of Linkage - and a well known expert on leadership.

The interview was far ranging and today I received this note from the interviewer.
"Thank you very much for your willingness to support our leadership research at Linkage. Your discussion of the excess emphasis on traits (rather than results) in modern business is one of the key highlights that came out of this series of interviews. Your candor has been extremely helpful to us..."
Here are 4 of the key points I made during the interview.
  1. I shared my definition of leadership: "Leadership is using the greatness in you to achieve and sustain extraordinary outcomes by engaging the greatness in others."
  2. Women have been under-served by most leadership development initiatives because they over-focus on interpersonal skills (the 1/3rd of the leadership definition that has to do with engaging the greatness in others). For decades the a collection of competencies labeled interpersonal skills is one where women are consistently rated by their bosses as outperforming men.
  3. The individualistic culture in the U.S. drives an overemphasis on seeking individual traits of leaders (the 1/3rd of the leadership definition that has to do with the greatness in you). This also under-serves women because of the competencies sought by boards and CEOs when identifying C-suite candidates and high potential employees, only 24% have to do with personal traits.
  4. Of the competencies sought by boards and CEOs when identifying C-suite candidates and high potential employees, 50% have to do with business, strategic and financial acumen. These have to do with the 1/3rd of the leadership definition that has to do with achieving and sustaining extraordinary outcomes. Specifically, they are looking for evidence of these competencies via impact on the business. In study after study over the past several decades, men have been rated as outperforming women in these areas. That's why we call these extremely important competencies The Missing 33%™of the career success equation for women.
For decades, the paradigms underlying leadership development have been viewed as neutral - in spite of the fact that much the research at the root of these paradigms - dating back to the late 70s - was done on men. As a result, most over-focus on 2/3 of the leadership definition, leaving women at a disadvantage.

To illustrate: In our work with companies on their women's initatives, we analyze the competencies that they embed in their performance and leadership development systems. In one F500 company, only 18% of its management competencies focus on business, strategic or financial acumen (The Missing 33%) - while 48% focused on personal traits. So, if a woman were to cultivate her personal traits per their system, she would hit a glass ceiling pretty early in her career because she would lack the business, strategic and financial skills required to advance.

And while some companies place more of a balanced emphasis between personal traits and engagement skills, the minimal focus on business, strategic and financial acumen is not uncommon!

How does your organization emphasize The Missing 33% in its performance, succession, leadership development, women's initiative content and other advancement systems?

To learn more about The Missing 33%, why it's important, and what you can do about it; check out this short video, and pick up a copy of No Ceiling, No Walls. You'll be glad you did!

Lead ON!
Susan Colantuono is CEO of Leading Women and author of No Ceiling, No Walls.
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1 comment:

Joy Fernadis said...

Thank for sharing very important women Leadership information.
Women Leadership