Research Paper By Sherri Lojzer
(Women’s Leadership Coach, CANADA)
By nature, leaders need to be decision makers at all levels and have the confidence to push forward on sometimes difficult issues and tough agendas to reach the greater good of the organizations. Individuals within those teams all come with their own motivations that are defined by their own selves and don’t necessarily have the mindset to see a picture from both levels. It bears onus on the leaders then to learn how to develop, guide and influence their teams to see and desire the bigger picture. Leaders aren’t just born. Leaders are made, but making that leadership requires the right building blocks. Good emotional development, mentoring and learning, opportunities, support and adaptability.
The current hallmarks of smarter and better leaders comes from much evolution in the business world, but significantly because of the effect of incredible amounts of social and psychological study and also the influence of women moving into leadership roles and bringing their new and unique ways of implementing their own leadership styles.
The Harvard Business Review reports that 2 out of every 5 CEO’s fail during the first 18 months on the job 1. If we take a step back now and look at the demographic of who we are discussing it is important to note that the Centre for Women’s Business Research published December 20043 that only 30% of all U.S. businesses are led by women. According to Fortune 500 in 2013 only 14.6% of executive officer positions were held by women and Catalyst, Pew Research Centre indicate that only 5.2% of CEO’s are female. This means that a significant majority of the leadership of organizations and businesses is still male dominated but women are gaining a foothold.
If we can examine this from a developmental perspective and focus on the ability of these leaders to become smarter and better in their roles, let’s consider their openness to methods for feedback and self-development using coaching as an example. Coaching offers the opportunity for them to strengthen these skills in themselves and have a tremendous impact in their organizations. More and more they are recognizing the value and need for coaching to take the already good leaders to greatness.
Yet in the Stanford Executive Coaching Survey, only 43% of CEOS were actually receptive to making leadership changes in response to coaching or feedback2. This begs the question why would they say they want coaching and then why would they ignore what they could learn from coaching and feedback? If a person is unwilling to be truly open to the coaching process, as every coach will say, it just won’t work. Their coachability becomes a barrier to skills development. The obvious reasons for this are that coaching appears to be remedial in nature for many leaders especially if they do not understand the methodologies and the objectives of it, overconfidence in themselves and their skills creating a sense that they don’t need help, or an under-confident ego, that impedes their ability to be open to feedback or the possibility of criticism. Only 2 thirds of CEO’s receive any type of outside coaching or leadership advice2 according to the Stanford Graduate School of Business. Why is there such a disconnect when the same report indicates that almost 100% of CEO’s indicated they want coaching?
To contrast that McKinsey & Co 2007 report indicated that 70% of women owned businesses sought out advice in start-up when the overall rate, which would include both men and women, was only 64%. An interesting comparison against the coaching industry is that the ICF Global Coaching Study in 2012 showed that nearly 70% of all coaches world-wide are female and that 56% of coaching clients tend to be female vs. 44% male.
For leaders and CEOs to receive the most benefit from coaching Stanford asked 200 CEOs and their Boards or teams what they thought were areas that most required coaching. There was a disconnect between the two sources. While CEOs thought that conflict management, listening skills, delegation and communication skills are the most important thing for them to receive coaching on, their teams believe that mentoring skills, sharing leadership & delegating and listening skills were more important, each in their respective order. Yet overall the consensus in current business and industry, even extrapolating from that data and from numerous surveys is that the most important areas all leaders need to develop to be effective in their roles are emotional intelligence, self-awareness, the power of influence.
In our changing social structure, where women are gradually increasing their presence in the business world and very slowly increasing their presence in the C-suites, a number of things influence their ability to transition well. Not only do they possess some specific strengths and structures that make them capable of being great leaders, their willingness to seek out feedback and self-development such as coaching, places them in a position of advantage. Additionally, women are already in positions where they are working like the CEO at home. Experience and practise provide a great foundation. Regardless of the methodology for feedback and self-development the willingness and ability to adapt is an enormous advantage.
Let’s overlay the opportunities for woman to outperform or outshine their male counterparts in the areas that are considered the most important for leaders
Emotional Intelligence is the focus of how we as humans recognize, interpret and respond to both our own and others emotions and utilize that as a guide to best possible outcomes. The key areas are around self-awareness, managing our emotions, empathy and social skills. The average female scores higher than the average male on EI tests, in most, but not all areas. E.G. Women do better at empathy while men tend to manage distressing emotions better.
Neuroscience can explain the differences in empathy (reading the cognitive, visible and emotional signs of another person) for men and women simply because of the way the brain operates. Men tend to read the signs and rather than internalizing them, they tune out to insulate themselves from the stress of the emotions. Women on the other hand tune-in instinctively to be supportive and provide help4
According to Woman’s Leadership Edge Global Research on Emotional Intelligence, Gender & Job Study5 In compiled results of over 24,000 leaders worldwide, females score higher on the standardly analyzed areas of emotional intelligence. Areas noted as significantly higher competencies for women included Applying Consequential Thinking and Enhancing Emotional Literacy. Consequential thinking is considered the ability to pause and evaluate benefits of a situation before jumping ahead into a decision or action. Enhancing Emotional Literacy means being able to identify and understand feelings. Men do have areas of advantage in navigating emotions, meaning they can evaluate and continue to move forward. In fact this is the area that women scored the lowest in, however, the higher capacity in enhancing emotional literacy allows women to develop this area.
In this study the sample of who were in senior business leadership roles; women scored another percentage point higher than those women who were not, again distancing themselves ahead of the men. Remembering that women tend to be more often clients in self-development coaching, reinforces the opportunity for women to continue developing and refining these skills sets
As women tend to be more effective at recognizing their own behaviours and understand the impact, the natural empathy allows them to relate that to those around and allow it to guide them in their decision making. Women also tend to possess stronger communication and social skills. These areas strengthen their emotional intelligence score and ultimately their overall ability as leaders to create a more effective team.
Becoming self-aware or increasing self-awareness leads to a better ability to know and understand others, identify behaviour patterns and things that need to change. It fuels empathy, problem solving and helps to create a “checks & balances” to be compared against believe systems and values.
Inc. Magazine says the best ways to develop more self-awareness requires 3 things. Solicit feedback; ask good questions and then listening without justifying6.
Results from the study by Zes and Landes on A Better Return on Self Awareness, the self-assessments on 6,977 leaders in publicly traded companies were tracked over 30 months and one of the concrete statistics that came from the study were that 79% of employees in the poorly performing companies had low overall self-awareness using the assessment tool7.
As leaders look to progress along in their careers it becomes more important in defining what areas of development they need to work on based on the model of self-awareness and not their own current belief systems.
Power of Influence
This is an area of huge opportunity for women as the current reams of studies do not indicate that this is a strong area for women. In a research paper by Linda Carli published at Wellesley College called “Gender & Social Influence” she reviews the results from dozens of different studies of social influence and gender. Linda identifies that societally men are expected to be the authorities and in mixed gender groups, men exert more influence than women and are in fact resistant to the influence of women.. However there are influence agents that can impact that outcome. Competence, dominance, communality and gender typing of a task. Overall, one significant factor is that males show a higher resistance than females to a female’s influence. Interestingly when males are in a female dominated group setting they display more communal behaviours which is the predominate style of women.
Showing competence, using more indirect as opposed to overly dominant communication allows more influence than being high in both. Despite male resistance to female influence when opportunities to gain money or other benefits are introduced, men are actually more easily influenced.
Dominance is not considered to be a positive female quality and creates a negative influence for women; however it is a more tolerated behaviour in high status and high competency men.
Women are unsuccessful who use direct dominant communication and identify any personal gain or benefit. However, the greatest source of receptiveness comes when women use collaborative and communal styles and whose goals are focused on helping others. Smiling, showing support to others, agreeableness are all things that create that style, taking care to avoid self-promotion as it is considered less acceptable.
Males have more influence in tasks that are traditionally considered masculine and if a task is considered to be more feminine males will more easily lean towards the female influence in the decisions or tasks.
There are many elements that affect the development of leaders including willingness to be coached, relational influences, environmental influence, socio-economics and emotional development. The vast differences between the female brain and the male brain both in structure and neurochemistry give opportunities for women to further develop their strengths in leadership, because they are predisposed to doing well in the areas currently seen as the most important leadership skills of our time. However, their willingness and ability to be adaptable and develop stronger skills in the areas of emotional intelligence, empowerment and power of influence place them in a strong position to use these advantages to propel them forward in leadership
Harvard’s Business Review Research, Gretchen Gavett What CEOs really want from coaching, August 15, 2013
Stanford Graduate School of Business & The Miles Group, 2013 Executive Coaching Survey
Center for Women’s Business research, December 2004
Psychology Today, Daniel Goleman Ph.D., Are women more emotionally intelligent than men, April 29, 2011
Women’s Leadership Edge Global Research on Emotional Intelligence, Gender & Job, September 11, 2012
Zes & Landis, A Better Return on Self-Awareness White Paper, 2013