EVENT: Amongst the plethora of initiatives to promote women in business one stands out – a community of professional women (and some men) who are taking the debate around male and female leadership values to a deeper level.
Last week saw the launch of the next phase in the development of the ‘Inspire Like a Man; Lead Like a Woman’ initiative. Hosted at Pearson’s London HQ by Diversity Manager, Abu Bundu-Kamara, the seminar was led by Justine Lutterodt, founder of the initiative, who set the scene by reminding us that less than 50% of the public trusted the business community according to the Edelman Trust Barometer 2013, and also that women now represent around 50% of the graduate population in advanced nations.
Her main theme was that, as the business world has become increasingly complex, a new workplace culture is called for – one through which it may be possible to better harness female talent in business and one where collaboration between men and women could be a catalyst for restoring trust. To achieve this, male and female values should be better balanced and to find this balance a deeper conversation is needed – the purpose of this exciting initiative.
In the old narrative male chacteristics of rationality and self-reliance were admired as the ‘Right Stuff’. In the current narrative female characteristics of intuition, empathy, and receptivity – previously seen as liabilities – are now lauded. What is really needed is a balance between the two taking into account male and female attitudes to power, new knowledge from neuroscience, and the delicate balancing act we all face in three critical areas:
HAVING A LIFE vs. AMBITION
LIVING MY VALUES vs. COMING OUT ON TOP
CONNECTING TO PEERS vs. DRIVING CHANGE
How to find a successful balance, and the tightrope walk it requires, was addressed by Donna Herdsman, former LLAW panellist, when she emphasised the significance of making clear choices and in making choices based on authenticity and the overriding importance of ‘being yourself’.
In his contribution, David Peters, former Managing Partner of Heidrick & Struggles in London, quoted Justine’s earlier reference to the “currency of trust”. As a long-time recruiter of senior corporate executives he spoke of the essentials of leadership: deep listening, authenticity, humility and moral courage. Dealing with the 'connecting with peers vs. driving change' issue, he stressed that leaders should be caring and kind, but kindness should not be confused with ‘being liked’. Fear of being disliked along with flip-flopping inconsistency are amongst the worst vices of poor leaders. Finally he said that real leaders give confidence and do not steal it
Perhaps the strength of this event came from the intense discussion it sparked amongst the 60 guests. Many commented on the "good energy" and quality conversation they experienced – the debate continues. The next Lead Like a Woman event is on June 10th. The next Lead Like a Woman; Inspire Like a Man event, which will have all male panellists, is planned for the fall. Following a pilot at Shell for International Women's Day, a series of workshops will also be run through the summer focusing on the three tension spots - ambition, politics and leadership.
Illustration: Katharine Hepburn and Humphrey Bogart, The African Queen, 1951, directed by John Huston, United Artists (Source: Wikimedia Commons)
Read about Justine Lutterodt
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