Women in leadership: What should we know? What should we do?

Post in: German

So, you’re a woman in a leadership position: what now? How can you master the delicate position between the expectations for a woman and for leaders? Where did those expectations come from, anyway? What can we do about it? And, what makes women such great leaders? We talked about all that tonight.

A unique thing has started in Frankfurt: The women working at the law firm Noerr LLP Frankfurt host their colleagues, clients, and potential clients — but women only — for an evening of learning and networking. Their series, Power Sucht Frau, had its third iteration tonight, Vol III “Ihr Führungsinstrumentarium erweitern” [Expand your leadership toolkit] and I was honored to be the speaker. Nearly 150 women in leadership from all kinds of firms filled the auditorium at Noerr LLP on the Börsenstrasse with a view over the Hauptwache and the city skyline. The evening was full of cameraderie and recognition, hope and optimism.
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My main points were:

  1. Processes are happening at an unconscious level that bias men and women toward believing men are the better leaders, even when all evidence points otherwise. As a result, women’s effectiveness is undervalued. Women compensate by being about 2.5 times more effective than a man who reaches the same level.  Blind evaluations would help remedy the bias.
  2. Successful leadership is not any one thing that good leaders do; it is a combination of things. Taking responsibility, looking out for the needs and development people being led, and getting the job done are some of those things. Leadership is not feeding the ego. The rewards of higher positions are compensations for the stress and sacrifice of putting everyone else and the organization’s goals first.  These compensations shouldn’t become the goals of greedy narcissistic people. We’re rewarding the wrong thing when we reward greed, narcissism, and the ability to draw attention to oneself with leadership positions.
  3. Studies that really look at effective leadership find “transformational leadership” is the most effective one, and it’s also the one more women than men demonstrate.  This kind of more effective leadership also draws on qualities often ascribed to women, building relationships and respect, listening well, responding to the needs of the organization and the team. Kind of like raising children, actually.
  4. Women in leadership can feel provoking just due to their novelty.  Yet people learn only when they’re a little bit challenged or uncomfortable — but not too uncomfortable. This is called the Zone of The Zone of Proximal Development helps organizations move from old habits to new ways of seeing and being.Proximal Development, and finding it helps organizations move from old habits to new ways of seeing and being.  Women in leadership can help organizations find that zone and move forward. And the women in a leadership position will feel that “Zone” at times, too. That’s where growth happens!
  5. Generation Y men and women put new pressures on workplaces. Having work and life in a healthy symbiosis is a demand of Gen Y and a wish for nearly everyone. These pressures — if answered — actually help everyone at work.

Even the most hopeless situation has promise, if one looks for the opportunities.  Every disadvantage can be turned into an advantage.  The disadvantages women have faced in leadership positions are now turning into their leadership advantage.
Did you attend? Please feel welcome to share impressions, experiences, and feedback in the comments section, below!


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