Grab a tall, refreshing drink, sit back, relax and settle in for a read! This week we are looking at leadership. What is a leader? What is the role of women in leadership? These are tough topics…
Before we begin, let’s clarify a few points for the sake of transparency. I am a woman. I am a woman who has been in leadership roles in business, in various organizations and at home. I can’t give you a straight answer on what a leader is, what makes a good leader or how to get more women in visible leadership roles
I hope you noticed the word “visible”. It’s an important term and we will come back to it later on.
What is a leader?
Yikes! This is a tough one. What makes a good leader isn’t the same as what makes a good manager. I can only share my personal views on this, so here goes.
Sir Robert Baden-Powell who created the Scouting/Guiding movement that developed so many of our leaders today…
1) I don’t believe in the “Leaders are born, not created” mentality. I think people become leaders when the situation requires it – for some, that may be daily, for others intermittently, and others still, next to never. It’s those times we step outside of ourselves and our comfort zones to make sure that the right thing happens for the collective.
2) Charisma may come into play, but I think a sense of responsibility and fairness is more important. An overly charismatic person comes across as slimy to me. Confidence is important too.
3) A sense of common good and actually caring about the people around them. Getting to know their team, their strengths and opportunities, finding ways to draw out the best in the people around them. Finding ways to develop a shared goal that creates win-win situations amongst the group. An interest in developing the people around them is key.
4) Position in a hierarchy may play a role, but isn’t the defining factor for me. I’ve met new hires who were better able to rally the troops than the department manager. One would hope that a manager would be a leader, but often promotions occur not because someone is a good leader or manager, but because they are good at doing a specific task.
Of course, these are just my opinions, please share yours in the comments below!
What is the role of women in leadership?
When I was a little girl, growing up in a small town on the east coast of Canada, my dream was to have a high powered executive job based in New York City or L.A. (Hey, it was the 80’s…big hair, big shoulder pads and Women’s Menswear…). I wanted the corner office with the good views, an assistant to bring me coffee and to make decisions for the multitudes.
Then I grew up. The dreams toned down a little – I no longer wanted the big shoulder pads or to live in a mega city, but I still wanted a managerial position that would lead to a corner office with views et al. So I climbed aboard that train and started the journey down the track. Somewhere along the way, I changed trains and ended up on another track heading in a different direction. It wasn’t the wrong direction and along the way I decided I liked this journey better, but it wasn’t taking me to the C-Suite – or at the very least not directly.
What happened? The best thing ever. Hands down. Bar none.
But it wasn’t my original plan. I wasn’t becoming the leader in business that I thought I would be.
And then it hit me.
I had become a leader. I am the founder and CEO of a delightful start up that features 2 distinct products. I am the CMO of this enterprise, showcasing all the reasons why these products fit into your life. I am the CFO of this company, responsibly managing the financial resources. I am the CTO, ensuring all systems are up-to-date, working to specifications and determining innovative ways to improve anything and everything.
The product? My children. That’s right, I became a Mom.
A Mom – the invisible leader who shapes the next generation. I commented on this in a forum
“I was thinking along this line myself – Mothers will stand up for their children (Assertive, Confrontational), teach their children everything from morals to tying their laces to setting the table (Gurus, Motivational, Inspirational), assign jobs and provide feedback (Delegate, Manage, Evaluate), kiss every boo-boo (Strong in a crisis, able to handle any challenge that comes their way) and still do it with sensitivity (negotiate win-win terms, confidence, make you feel good about yourself). (I’ve not forgotten the ability to budget, minimize cost overruns, time manage projects, apply cost saving measures without compromising quality, etc – wanted to keep this “short”).
People often say women aren’t in leadership roles. Perhaps they should stop and consider their own mothers and then apologize for not realizing that women take on important (but slightly more invisible) leadership roles everyday.”
(By the way – I did end up getting my corner office with the great views and two assistants who brings me coffee. My corner office might be in my dining room, but I get the best views ever of the backyard. My assistants who bring me coffee are super cute (and I can say that without the fear of a lawsuit since they are my kids). The measurement of ones success are subjective at best and I realized that what I do at home is just as important as I what I did in business…)
Defining leadership is tough because it is hard to separate leadership from management skills. Leadership is more about personal characteristics (I think – would love to hear your thoughts). Visible and Invisible leadership was an interesting concept, especially in terms of Women in Leadership. I would hate for anyone to read my bit on mothers as anti-feminist as that is not my intent. I believe we sometimes undervalue the role of mothers in developing the leaders of the next generation – and who better to learn leadership skills from than another leader? Quiet, behind the scenes leadership is still leadership and still valuable.
Next week we will be looking at ethics. This is bound to be an intriguing week with many different viewpoints. If the ACCA Fruit Stand game teaches us anything, it taught us that we could make ethical mistakes – even with the best intentions…so if we can in a inconsequential instance, what happens when it really counts???