This is a really exciting time to be a female leader. There is no denying that much of what is going on in the world is not how we would like it to be. We are experiencing extreme challenges – such as terrorism, the health service breaking down and the education system struggling to keep up with the new pace of life.
But these challenges are waking us up and demanding that we ask ourselves what is our part, in bringing about a positive change.
As women, we have a tendency to approach leadership from a position of collaboration, synergy and a mutually beneficial outcome, rather than wanting to win at any cost.
These are the principles that more and more people want to experience in their workplaces and the greater world; it’s time for us to model this, with more commitment and higher standards than ever before.
It is time to break away from the outdated, autocratic leadership structures that are being clung to and change what we value in our leaders.
Staying relevant as a female leader
If we have enjoyed a position of power and significance as a leader, it can be hard to acknowledge that our skill set and experience may not be so relevant as we move more fully into what is being labelled ‘the Agile age’.
Having experienced so much turbulence in the last two decades, we often unconsciously perpetuate the attitude ‘better the devil we know than the one we don’t’.
This is a very natural response.
We need to recognise our own resistance to change as we get comfortable with the familiar, despite complaining about it.
Moving too quickly through change
If you are familiar with Elizabeth-Klubber-Ross’s model, the Grief Cycle, applied as the Change Curve in business, you will know that for people to move through the curve healthily, they need time to process what is happening and reach a sense of completion.
If they have too much change forced upon them, too regularly, people begin to suffer from ‘change fatigue’. Unfortunately, with the half-life of a skill currently being about five years, the potential of change fatigue is going to be a very real problem.
Why it’s an exciting time to be a female leader
So, why do I think this is an exciting time to be a female leader? Because the old systems and structures that have stifled us for so long will not translate into the new era we are entering.
We live in a time of great possibility.
The old, bureaucratic model, where authority, poor systems and strategies were questioned at your peril, will not work in the paradigm, because of the speed of change we will be experiencing.
As leaders, we need to stay current
According to Deloitte’s Global Human Capital Trends 2017, a very necessary success component for the organisations of the future will be the willingness to take risks, to integrate innovations in IT and AI, which will be an increasing influence on business and the workforce.
Taking risk means making mistakes and for people to be willing to do this, we need to be leaders who create a culture of trust, support and exploration of new ideas – without the consequences of being the scapegoat, when someone makes an error.
This has not been people’s experience under previous leadership regimes. In the past, bottom line profits were the priority and work/life balance, collaboration, true social responsibility and environmental issues were token gestures.
When profit, alone, is the priority, everything else suffers as the ripples reach out to all levels of society.
Female leadership offers a wider perspective.
The strength of female leaders
As women, we have more power over the markets (and therefore the workplace) than we realise.
According to the research of Avivah Wittenberg-Cox, of 20-First, 80% of consumer goods purchasing decisions are made by women, particularly in the areas of loans, car purchase and IT equipment. Also, 60% of the global talent graduating from university are women, which means that we are beginning to have the voice that generations of women have longed for.
Neuropsychiatrist, Dr Louann Brizendine, states that women are naturally better predisposed to inclusivity and collaboration – and before I set feminist hackles rising, this is based on our biology, not on gender rules.
We possess great, untapped strengths such as our propensity for compassion, our ability to see nuance, rather than just black and white, and our desire to create a better world for our children.
It makes sense to embrace and celebrate these characteristics, rather than trying to be gender neutral, be gender bilingual.
Creating a collaborative, inclusive future
In this new paradigm of female leadership, we need to use our power for good, not revenge for the glass ceiling.
There is quite a lot of men-bashing going on in the media and if we really want to create a collaborative, inclusive future, we need to see men as allies or potential allies.
If we approach any discussion with underlying resentment, we are not going to get the outcome we want; to create a better workplace and world.
By putting aside historical prejudices aside and working together, we can create a better future.
Being the change we want to see in the world
As women leaders, we truly need to be the change we want to see in the world.
It’s incredibly challenging to let go of outdated attitudes and justifiable resentments, but it is necessary if we want to move forward.
We need to go first.
Each of us, as individuals, not waiting for someone to show us the way, or until it is the social norm.
Like Rosa Parks, we need to sit down at the front of the bus and refuse to move. Can you imagine how scared she must have been? But she wasn’t prepared to bow to the status quo any longer. No ranting or blaming, just a quiet, dignified, invincible statement… no more.
It’s time to let go of the old and embrace the new, ladies. Are you ready to lead the change for a better workplace and a better future?
Denning and Brown: A New Culture of Learning
Dr Louann Brizendine: The Female Brain
Avivah Wittenberg-Cox: 7 Steps to Leading a Gender-Balanced Business