Women in Leadership: It’s a Matter of Life and Death

BusinessWoman_outside2Close your eyes. Bring into your awareness the face of a person in your life who you believe is a great leader. As you see that person’s face in your mind’s eye, think about what it is about that person that had an impact on you. Remind yourself of those things; say them quietly to yourself.

Open your eyes.

My guess is that no matter who you saw in your mind, their impact on your had nothing to do with what the person has on the outside (financially, educationally, or anatomically) and had everything to do with what the person is like on the inside. It was likely someone whose passion, purpose and positivity were contagious, and you wanted to be a part of whatever that person was creating.

Leadership is everything. It is critical to any well-functioning organization, university, community and family. When it is done well, it’s the reason people are attracted to join, and to stay. When it’s off course, it’s one of the key reasons that people leave (or otherwise disengage).

I happen to believe that effective leadership is also a matter of life and death.

There is an interesting phenomenon in typical organizations. As you move up the ‘ladder’ from entry level positions to more senior leadership roles, the importance of technical skills goes down, while the importance of self- and social-awareness goes up. The importance of self- and social- awareness at higher organizational levels is not new; what might be new is the realization that the way we are working is actually making our capacity for self- and social- awareness go down! Constant multi-tasking, crushing workloads, and long ‘break-less’ work days are taking a toll on our ability to regulate our emotions and build meaningful relationships.

What’s also interesting is that women?almost?completely vanish from the picture at higher organizational levels!

While women make up 50% of the workforce, and earn 50% of university degrees, they comprise only 18 % of executive roles and hold a mere 5 % of CEO seats. ? Yet, there is so much evidence that women make effective leaders. Last year,?Zeneger Folkman, a company that studies leadership, found that women rated higher than men on 12 out of 16 attributes tested. After analysing 7,280 of their clients’ performance evaluations, they found two traits where women outscored men significantly: taking initiative and driving results.

And, there is some evidence that organizations with more women in leadership positions perform better financially.

Every organization, no matter what their purpose for existing, needs to be productive and sustainable. And, productive, sustainable organizations need people who are engaged and energized around their purpose.

Sadly, both productivity and engagement are at an all time low in our country, while stress and mental illness are at an all time high. People are working longer hours, and feeling less satisfied with their results. If extreme stress is not causing premature death (and it clearly is in some cases) it is certainly contributing to mental and physical dis-ease.

I think there is a connection between all of these factors. We need to change the way we work and live. And, we need more chicks in charge!

More women need to step up, lean in, and otherwise support and encourage each other to assume more leadership roles. Not only because we are 50% of the workforce, but because it only makes sense that we will create a happier, healthier, and more productive country when we – all of us – men and women – together – utilize our collective intelligence and maximize our opposing strengths.

Some of the reasons that women do not step into leadership includes a concern about being able to maintain work-life balance while holding senior roles. It is exactly that concern for balance that organizations need today.

Perhaps I should have started with this disclaimer: This post is not anti-men. Nor is it pro-women. It is, instead pro encouraging the right women and men to lean, step and jump into leadership opportunities – and to create positive, productive and prosperous workplaces.

March 8 is International Women’s Day. The 2015 theme is ‘Make it Happen’. So, I invite you to make it happen! Let’s change the way we work and live and make this a happier, healthier, more humane world for us all!

And…the next time you close your eyes and think of a great leader, I hope you see yourself.



7 Replies to “Women in Leadership: It’s a Matter of Life and Death”

  1. Great article Deri! The deeper I go the more I realize that it’s actually feminine energy we all need more of – men and women alike. Our organizations would benefit greatly by having people in charge that are more balanced in their feminine/masculine energies and it just so happens when women embrace this energy they are fierce…in a very beautiful, compassionate way. Women make awesome leaders, but not when they try to fit into a masculine model. So I say, Yes, to women rising to the role they have come here to play, by saying goodbye to any stress causing and relationship destroying distorted energies they have embodied and opening up fully to that Divine Feminine and Masculine energies that are naturally theirs. 🙂

  2. Great article Deri. I think it is just the right encouragement that women need as well. More women as chairpersons, more women as CEOs, more women as entrepreneurs! I am definitely not anti-man either, I quite like the balance of male/female and other. I also believe that women who stay home to raise their children, need to recognize in themselves and be recognized by the workforce, that the skills used in running a home and family can be equivalent to running a small business or army, in some cases! Some people have no idea what it’s like, the strategy of crisis problem-solving, the challenges of making a budget work and the ability to visualize long and short term priorities! Long live the woman! Happy international woman’s day!

    Jessica Dumas

    Prime Image Life Coaching

    1. Love this, Jessica! Thank you so much! I completely agree that skills to run a home are completely transferable to the workplace. No questions there is a lot of work still needed to get that message out.

  3. In a recent survey of teachers in our division, we found that almost half are dissatisfied with their work/life balance. That is a scary number considering we are in the family business and that many of those surveyed are parents struggling to balance their family lives with their work lives. It’s a vicious cycle that we are in. I often fantasize of what life could be like to be a stay-at-home mom while I am sure many stay-at-home moms fantasize what life would be like to work outside of the home. There has to be balance. Both male and female leaders need to value that flexibility and balance

  4. Isn’t that interesting, Joyleen! I agree – we have lots of work to do in this regard. And, we can completely come together to figure this out. What we are doing now is clearly not working; there is for sure a better way to work and live.

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