Take Ownership & Find Your Voice
Women in Leadership
By Gloria Taylor and Deborah Cardiff, CT Consulting
As women, we start careers in business and other professions with high levels of intelligence, education and commitment. Yet comparatively few of us reach the top echelons in our respective fields.
A recent McKinsey report, The McKinsey Leadership Project, interviewed successful women around the world to understand the discrepancy. Their findings reveal a leadership model best suited to women that comprises broad and interrelated dimensions including meaning, managing energy, connecting and engaging. McKinsey calls this model Centered Leadership. ?As the name implies it?s about having a well of physical, intellectual, emotional and spiritual strength that drives personal achievement and in turn inspires others to follow.?
McKinsey?s Centered Leadership mirrors what the Satir Model calls congruent leadership where SELF, OTHER and CONTEXT are equally valued and acknowledged. Using a congruent model is a way to remain centred.
The SELF is who we are, how we feel, how we judge ourselves, what expectations we hold. Minimizing the self is an invitation to reduced energy, illness and under appreciation by others.
The OTHER requires equal attention in any relationship. Good listening and observation skills help to keep others in equal relationship.
The CONTEXT is the ever-shifting milieu in which relationships develop and inform responses and reactions. Learning to hold these three aspects of congruent relating is vital to successful leadership.
?Motherhood and management drains energy in a particularly challenging way? not only for women who have children at home, but for women who are responsible for co-ordinating care for their aging parents or for other family members.
The challenges can be intense when everyone is healthy, but what if a sibling is diagnosed with cancer or a mother in law is slowly disappearing through the maze of Alzheimer?s.
?If work-life balance is a myth, the only hope women have is to balance our energy flow. This means basing our priorities on the activities that energize us both at work and at home and actively managing our resources to avoid dipping into reserves.?
McKinsey?s report suggests talented women thrive when meaning and connecting are implicit parts of our experience. ?Meaning is the motivation that moves us. It enables us to discover what interests us and to push ourselves to the limit. It makes the heart beat faster, provides energy, and inspires passion.?
Is meaning important for leaders? ?Studies have shown that among professionals, it translates into greater job satisfaction, higher productivity, lower turnover, and increased loyalty.? When we are in leadership positions we can begin to serve a vision infused with a larger purpose. Our work can shift naturally from producing results to encouraging the growth of others who produce results.
Successful leaders can be described as having a style that looks like a web of inclusion in which we do not see ourselves at the top of a hierarchy but in the centre of a web of connections.
Our leadership is characterized more by facilitation, directing information and transmitting data outwards, than by competitiveness. Our authority in the web can be just as powerful as in a hierarchy but manifests in different ways.
In fact the hierarchical model of leadership is becoming outdated. It seems then that as women we are uniquely positioned for a centred or congruent model of leadership.
The women interviewed by McKinsey said they needed to create their own luck. To engage with opportunities by taking ownership of them, the first step is to find their own voice.
The women who wanted to grow as leaders also had to take ownership of their professional development. This type of engagement is also about risk taking, finding the courage and confidence to dive in.
As women we are all uniquely positioned to create a new model of leadership in our world and our organizations. We can commit to the continual development of awareness. We have the capacity to choose to give ourselves to something larger than ourselves. In the process just maybe the old models and hierarchies will shift.