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HOW WOMEN LEAD
The 8 Essential Strategies Successful Women Know
By SHARON HADARY, LAURA HENDERSON
The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc.Copyright © 2013Sharon Hadary and Laura Henderson
All rights reserved.
SUCCESS STRATEGY ONE
Empower the Woman Leader Within
As pioneers in women's leadership, we frequently are asked to describe the difference between women's and men's leadership styles. The early studies comparing women and men business leaders declared there were no differences—yet many of us realized that we were leading differently. How could these studies be right?
They were right because they looked only at basic business skills that are the backbone of any business leader regardless of gender, such as finance, planning, and operations. Every individual who is going into business needs the same basic mastery of what it takes to operate a business successfully.
What these early studies failed to consider is the style in which the leader makes decisions, creates teams, builds relationships, and leads people. That is where the differences are. Women create a different context around leadership. They are more holistic, collaborative, inclusive, and consultative than men. Today, we realize that these qualities are strengths that add to the success of the enterprise.
Testing the Waters
As more women moved into management, both managers and employees started to recognize that the approach that women bring to addressing business operations—evaluating situations, establishing goals, and solving problems—is different from that of their men counterparts. At first, this difference made people a little uncomfortable—not only the men in leadership and the employees, but even the women themselves.
It has taken time for women to feel confident leading in their own style. Their first attempts to manage differently were tentative. As they began to realize there was strength in their leadership style, they began using it when they managed their employees—managing down in a holistic manner, while maintaining their masculine approach to leadership when managing up.
When Sharon was a young manager at IBM, she got her first glimpse of how women lead differently. There was only one woman senior executive in the Federal Systems Division where Sharon worked. This executive always treated junior employees with consideration and respect, greeting them whenever she encountered them in the hallways or in meetings. This style was a very different style from that of the male senior executives. "She made us feel valued—even if we did not work directly for her," recalls Sharon. Many years later, Sharon heard this woman leader speak at a conference on women's leadership. In her presentation, the former IBM executive declared that she led in the same style as the men while she was at IBM. After the presentation, Sharon spoke to her privately about the difference between what she had said and what Sharon had observed. "Yes, with employees I was different," she said, "but when I managed up, working with my colleagues and bosses, I managed just like they did."
Become Confident Leading Like a Woman
Today, as we discussed in the introduction, there is ample proof that women's leadership styles are a valuable complement to men's leadership styles. No longer are women managing down one way and managing up in another. Women are gaining the confidence to manage in a style they recognize is both authentic and effective. Men are realizing that having a woman's perspective adds insights that lead to more effective decisions.
Many people would like to proclaim that women lead better than men. This statement makes great headlines. However, while women and men lead differently, both approaches have their strengths, and neither is better than the other. As we have said, there is great value in combining the different approaches to leadership. When an organization effectively integrates women's and men's leadership styles, the result is a stronger, more nimble organization; it is an organization that is considered by employees as a good place to work.
You will be more successful if you lead in a woman's way. "Be authentic," advises Fiona O'Hara, Senior Executive, Technology Director of Operations at Accenture.
What are women's strengths as leaders? How do you lead like a woman? In this chapter, we share with you the latest research on women's leadership styles and the strategies of women who have achieved the highest levels of success by maximizing their female strengths. Some of these strategies will resonate with you; others may not. The purpose of this chapter is to help you recognize and value the strengths that you, as a woman, bring to leadership and feel confident incorporating these strengths into your leadership style.
Women Are Learning to Lead Authentically
Women are holistic. When they look at their lives, they see the integration of family, professional, community, and personal goals and values rather than viewing each part of their life as a silo. They take into consideration people as whole individuals, with personal and professional goals and responsibilities. In business, women go beyond the specific situation to consider the relationship of other factors. While men focus primarily on facts, logic, and hierarchy, women add a context of values, vision, mission, and relationships. When women consider a situation, they see more than the facts on the table. They ask "why" as well as "what." As a result, they are likely to identify opportunities, risks, and gaps that men may not have recognized.
Camye Mackey, Vice President of Human Resources at the B. F. Saul Company Hospitality Group, sees this difference all the time. "Generally speaking, men tend to focus on the facts," says Camye. "Women are more likely to supplement the facts with a 360–degree view of the situation, looking at organizational and people implications that often are not reflected in the numbers."
Women's leadership strengths are characteristic of what is known as a transformational style of leadership, a style that is inclusive and consultative, and that generates employee commitment to the success of the organization. According to Bernard M. Bass, one of the leading management theorists, transformational leadership is imperative to success in today's global economy, and, he reports, women are more likely than men to embrace this style.
This collaborative, consultative process results in better decisions and buy-in that can dramatically reduce the time it takes to implement change. Transformational leaders create a shared vision and shared ownership with employees in achieving that vision. They create an atmosphere that is intellectually stimulating, values-based, and respectful of individual differences.
Transformational leadership breaks with the more traditional style of transactional leadership, which is based on the carrot-and-stick approach to management. Transactional leaders motivate employees by appealing to their self- interest, establishing goals, and rewarding desired behaviors.
Women recognize the importance of rewards. However, women use rewards differently from transactional leaders. Rather than using rewards as motivators, women use shared goals to provide motivation and use individual rewards to recognize contributions to the organization's success.
Women Are Inclusive and Collaborative
Women value building relationships. They build strong, productive relationships with employees horizontally across the company with other functions and business areas, and outside the company with customers and vendors. These relationships become the foundation for inclusive and collaborative problem solving and decision making.
The best women leaders recognize that they cannot be experts in every area. Rather, they surround themselves with people who have greater expertise and skills than they do in given areas. They value diversity in backgrounds and perspectives because this gives the group wider expertise and flexibility. They are more inclusive when putting together teams or creating small groups to address specific situations. The result is more creative and nontraditional solutions. "The more senior you become, the more you know you can't be an expert in everything. But, you do know you can become a good synthesizer of information and use that to make good decisions based on the information from the people around you," says Judith (Judy) Robinson, Colonel, Medical Service Corps, United States Army.
Women shine in facilitating group dynamics. They are more likely to start by examining the problem and to consider, "are we asking the right questions" before moving to developing solutions. They encourage all group members to share their ideas and insights, ensure that everyone has the opportunity to speak, and focus on synthesizing all the ideas into a common solution that is stronger and more creative than the solution any one individual might have developed. A woman is not concerned with competing to have her personal solution to the problem accepted or getting the credit for the good idea; to her, the primary objective is to generate the best possible solution to a challenge.
Not surprisingly, when the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) undertook a study to determine what factors lead to successful group problem solving, they found the presence of women leaders was the critical component. Groups with women leaders surpassed all other groups in producing high-quality solutions, even when other groups had a higher average IQ or included one or two team members with extremely high IQs. What differentiated the most successful groups was having leaders who made certain that everyone had the opportunity to speak regardless of seniority or status, who listened, and who synthesized ideas to create a solution that integrated the best ideas of the entire group. When the researchers reviewed the composition of the top-performing groups, they found that these groups included women members. The women's nonconfrontational styles created an environment in which group members felt safe in taking risks and putting forth their most creative and often nontraditional ideas. While men certainly can learn these skills, women excel at the nuances of motivating group members to share their expertise and combine their knowledge to create new solutions or beef up existing processes.
This style of collaborative decision making is the wave of the future in business, and men are as aware as women of its value. When Virginia Rometty was announced as IBM's new CEO, one of her former customers applauded the decision because he saw her skills at collaborative leadership as crucial to the future of the IT industry. He had become acquainted with Virginia Rometty when he was president and COO of Coca-Cola, and she was leading the IBM team working on Coca-Cola's information technology needs. "Under her direction, IBM staffers engaged in collaborative problem solving which I think the future of IT is all about."
Women Invest Time in Consultation
Women take time to consult with others when making a decision. They pull together those who will be affected by the decision or who will have to implement the solution—employees, colleagues, customers, and vendors—to discuss the pros and cons of the decision. The result is both buy-in from those affected by the decision and improved decisions. Women truly want to know what others think about a decision. In talking with women leaders about what they do differently, a key factor is the consultative process. They say they ask for others' ideas and recommendations, and, most important, really listen to the responses and incorporate them into making the final decision. Women are more open to considering alternative solutions and more willing to compromise to achieve the overall objective.
One of the concerns some harbor about women leaders is that they may take longer than men to make decisions. Women know when to be decisive. If a critical decision must be made quickly, women will not delay making it. When given their preference, however, they will invest the time to consult. In addition to generating better decisions, one of the advantages of women's consultative approach is that when the decision is made, the risks already have been addressed, and those who will implement the decision already are committed. The result is faster and often more effective implementation.
Women Create Shared Vision, Shared Values, and Shared Goals
Women place a high level of importance on values and vision. They place great weight on the values and vision of the company when choosing a place to work, and the values and vision are a major factor in why they choose to stay with a company. This focus on values and vision carries over into the way they lead. Women take time to articulate and generate employee commitment to their vision and organizational values. Shared vision and values translate into commitment to shared goals, which leads to organizational success.
Women want to understand how overall organizational goals contribute to business success and how the goals of their function tie into the overall organizational goals. Women make a priority of communicating to their employees what their business unit's goals are, how these goals contribute to the function's success, and how they tie into the overall business. As a result, they engender employee engagement and commitment to achieving the vision and goals of the business unit and, therefore, the overall business.
Women Lead Holistically
Women's holistic perspective extends to employees. They realize employees do not park their personal goals and responsibilities at the door when they come to work. Women leaders get to know their employees and create an environment, in which achieving professional goals for the company results in employees also achieving their personal aspirations and goals. Research shows that as a result of this leadership style, employees report a higher level of trust in women leaders than in men leaders and believe women leaders are more likely to understand what employees face in their personal lives. When employees feel this way, they become more committed to the goals of the organization and will invest the effort and time to go the extra mile to achieve the goals.
Both men and women employees are more likely to say they trust a woman leader than a man leader, according to a recent survey of a broad spectrum of global companies. Male and female employees in companies headed by a woman CEO expressed a higher level of trust in their CEO than employees in companies headed by male CEOs. And when times get tough, the difference in level of trust increases. A follow-up survey found that as the recent recession hit Europe, the male employees' level of trust in their female CEO went up significantly, while levels of trust in male CEOs remained constant.
Employees also reported a higher level of confidence that their woman CEO knows what she is doing. In the same survey, employees ranked women CEOs higher than their men counterparts in their ability to do the job and on being principled and honest, reflecting women's focus on shared values and vision.
Results like these should add to women's confidence in leading in their own style. They show how far we have come in valuing the unique skills women bring to leadership. Styles that once were dismissed as inappropriate in business leadership now are valued as integral to generating employee commitment and performance.
This level of trust in their leader is what motivates employees to become members of high-performing teams that achieve goals and contribute to the success of the company. This is perhaps women's greatest strength—their ability to command the highest levels of commitment from others to achieve the organization's mission and vision.
An excellent example of the impact of women's leadership strengths is the story of high school football coach Natalie Randolph. She demonstrates women's ability to command the highest levels of commitment from their teams and to inspire them to achieve a goal none of the team members would have believed possible. In Natalie's case, the achievement was playing in the annual Turkey Bowl, the most prestigious public school sports event in Washington, D.C. In the previous quarter of a century, the high school where she coached had made it to the Turkey Bowl only once.
Coach Randolph is probably the only woman in the country coaching high school football. When she arrived a year earlier, skepticism about her ability to coach a boys' football team had been rampant—in the school and in the press. "I had no other choice," says Natalie. "I had to succeed." The school's football program was in a shambles, and many of the team members regularly skipped classes and had no ambitions beyond playing high school football. Natalie made academics as important as football, focused the team members on their future beyond simply graduating from high school, and created a strong team culture. Today, her players are no longer skeptical, and they want to play for her. "We trust her," says one of the seniors on the team. "She focuses on our futures, not just football. It makes me feel great that we can do this for her and for ourselves, to take the first lady to the Turkey Bowl in her second year." As the players prepared for their first Turkey Bowl, they told a newspaper reporter, "We're going all out for Ms. Randolph and for our high school." While the team did not win the game, the players won respect for themselves, for the team, and for the school. It was a win for the boys, but most of all, it was a win for Natalie Randolph—no longer is anyone questioning whether a woman can coach boys' football.
Women Can Be Both Collaborative and Decisive
The perennial question is: can a woman be collaborative, inclusive, and consultative and still make the tough decisions? When Time Inc. selected Laura Lang as its new CEO, her former boss, a man, praised her as being "all about the team." "I've always been inclusive and collaborative," said Ms. Lang in an interview. "I also know how to make decisions. One does not preclude the other."
Women know when and how to make the tough decisions and do not shirk this responsibility. The challenge is communicating the tough decisions. While men have the same challenge when faced with communicating a tough decision, the challenge is greater for women because they are expected to be compassionate and caring. When they do not behave that way, their behavior is interpreted more severely than a man's would be. One of women's strengths is their ability to communicate tough decisions while at the same time letting people know that they are respected and are being treated fairly. They acknowledge that they are aware of how the decision will affect each person and provide assurance that these factors have been considered in the decision-making process.
Excerpted from HOW WOMEN LEAD by SHARON HADARY. Copyright © 2013 by Sharon Hadary and Laura Henderson. Excerpted by permission of The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc..
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