How Girls’s Genuine Management Can Affect Corporations for the Higher
Peggy Shell, a member of the Entrepreneurs’ Organization (EO) in Colorado, is the founder and CEO of Creative Alignments, a time-based recruitment agency that offers an affordable alternative to traditional recruiting with a unique, customer-centric approach. We asked Peggy about the changing face of female leadership. Here’s what she shared.
When I first started in the business world, female executives wore pant suits and assumed tough demeanor. In retrospect, women felt that they had to adopt a masculine style in order to fit into a male-dominated environment where leadership was strong, dominant, and authoritative.
Nowadays, modern ideals of transformative leadership qualities such as emotional intelligence, empathy and inclusivity are valuable – nurturing qualities that women usually have. Organizations benefit from women who lead as women rather than women who feel obliged to lead like men.
What does this changing face of leadership look like and how do we manifest it?
Female leadership thrives when women see themselves as leaders
While men and women can be great leaders alike, it is widely documented that men in general show greater confidence in the business, and therefore more likely to get involved in the mix. For example, if a job description includes a checklist of requirements, a man can apply if he only fulfills some of them, while a woman is more likely to feel that she has to fulfill all of them.
As women realize that they are just as smart and capable in business as men (and not the only ones who can take care of things at home), they take on more leadership roles and find greater success.
Carole Buyers, managing partner at BIGR Ventures, notes that six of her eight portfolio companies are run by women.
“In early-stage companies, we invest in people,” Buyers said. “We chose our portfolio companies not because they were led by women, but because the executives were incredibly intelligent, humble, gritty and able to handle attitudes.”
The buyers’ decades-long career in finance gives her a long-term view of how women have developed as leaders: “I grew up with four brothers, so I didn’t even think that my industry was 90 percent male. I look back and see how much things have changed, in part because of a changed mindset among women who know they can play any role they want. “
Buyers believe in the power of mentoring. “We often look after executives before we invest in them. Leadership is not a matter of course for everyone – some people need coaching.”
Cross-gender sponsorships encourage the exchange of experiences, perspectives and skills
“To truly diversify the workforce, individual segments cannot move forward at the same time. We must all move forward together,” said Jessica Fialkovich, co-owner and president of Transworld Business Advisors and president of the Colorado chapter of EO.
In terms of their own career development, mentoring activities that are cross-gender have been crucial. “Most of my mentors have been men who have advanced in their careers. They have already been on the path I am on and have the tactical skills, wisdom and connections to develop.”
One of her goals is, for example, to be on the board of a listed company. Since few women have these experiences and skills, a male mentor who has “been there, done this” will help her achieve her goal.
She’s seen women become interested in mentors because it’s convenient or because we have the mentality to stick together. This may be less than ideal:
- First, because there are generally fewer female leaders who end up bearing a heavier mentee burden than men.
- Second, just because a mentor is the same gender doesn’t mean they have the most relevant experience.
- Third, cross-gender sponsorships can enable a variety of thoughts and perspectives.
“The best mentor pairs develop organically over time,” said Fialkovich. “Instead of asking someone to be your mentor, offer them information or ideas that you think will be helpful and ask for advice and guidance when needed.”
An authentic circle of different people enables success
Mentoring is even more powerful when it is part of a diverse sphere of influence. Professional relationships need to be curated in a targeted manner. Who does things that you find interesting, inspiring and even somewhat uncomfortable? Surround yourself with these people.
“If everyone at the table looks, sounds, and thinks like me, how are my perspectives and inherent blind spots challenged so I can learn and grow?” asked Valerie Hope, leadership trainer, speaker, writer, and assistant professor at UC Berkeley, Haas School of Business. “Look for people who have dealt with a situation similar to yours and yet have found an empowering path. When we hear from all sides, we can harness each one’s strengths.”
The wisdom, skills, and perspectives we learn from others, combined with our own style, history, and values help develop ourselves as great leaders and help others become leaders. In this light, success is not about women fitting into the paradigm of leadership modeled by men. The point is that women – who are by nature different from men – have an influence on the management level by leading authentically as themselves.
The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.