All across Australia … women are ready, willing and capable to lead much needed changes … to take the lead in abolishing entrenched ineffective processes and unacceptable behaviours that permeate and percolate through the corridors of our higher offices and corporate organisations.
Yes, ready. Right now. Women don’t need fixing and they certainly don’t need to take a daily ‘spoonful of cement’ to build more resilience, nor do they need to ‘learn how to roll with the punches’; just some of the recently reported commentary that several influential males in high places clearly think is 'normal' leadership expectations, especially in the political arena. Frankly, this archaic attitude doesn’t belong in any arena; Canberra, corporate, councils, community boards, or classrooms.
Most aspiring women leaders I’ve met [and many I coach], don’t need personal confidence building, or negotiation training, or communication style lessons on how to be ‘less emotional’. They already have those skills from years of having to continually rise up from the put-downs, and constantly negotiate fairer deals. And then there’s the implied view that women are just ‘too emotional to lead’; really? I’d rather have a leader who is self-ware, in touch with their emotions, and willing to share that openly, than the recent male-led display of secret coups, silent knives-in-back, followed by unhinged anger, threats, and retribution fuelled snipes. Hardly a display of emotional intelligence strength from the male ‘leaders’ currently in our news feeds.
Emotional intelligence [EQ] is not about the absence, denial, or suppression of one’s emotions. We all have emotions. In fact, people with high EQ levels have strong awareness of how they feel at any given moment, and accurate understanding of why that emotion has been triggered. The most important thing is what happens next; the responses they choose in relation to those emotions. Real leaders think and react with a focus on the greater good; not self-interest. They know that leadership is not about them; it’s always about others. But … that’s for a whole other EQ focused article.
My point is: Women don’t need fixing, and they certainly DON’T need to act more like men.
Now, it’s no secret that my passion for developing dynamic leaders – with authentic, genuine, ethical, emotionally intelligent and engaging characteristics, drives what I do, write and speak about. Add a heavy-handed splash of fairness, equality, and diversity to that personal beliefs cocktail mix, and there’s no question I’m a potent advocate for women in leadership roles. The need. The benefits. The solution.
Yes, the solution. I firmly believe that more women in leadership roles is a critical component of the solution needed to address current real issues. Why do I say that?
Recently I attended the ALGWA [Australian Local Government Women’s Association] Queensland conference, with a room full of female Mayors and Councillors, and a few other senior officers and government stakeholders. The energy in the room was vibrant. Lots of confident, courageous, skilled communicators; all passionate about representing their communities. While there was a variety of topics, by far the most robust, emotionally charged discussions were triggered by one important value they hold strongly: INTEGRITY.
Integrity of process. Integrity of community commitment. Integrity levels expected from Local Government leaders and the widely reported, alleged lack of it in some QLD Councils. Specifically – there was a strong feeling of injustice at being tarred with the same crime and corruption laden brush; unfairly placed in the same paint pot with those who are currently having to answer to criminal charges. There’s no doubt that the QLD Local Government sector is in damage control.
With Local Government being one of our core client sectors [we partner with and work within LG on a variety of projects], I have taken a keen interest in current legal investigations and subsequent criminal charges. From our own personal experiences, I have developed a stronger need to know why some leaders make such blatantly wrong decisions; what drives such behaviour. It’s important to understand the cause, towards implementing justifiable solutions. We prefer to focus on and be part of the solution.
One burning observation I’ve made from my research is that out of all those facing crime and corruption charges to date [several Mayors, CEOs, COO, senior staff and some associates], almost all of them are men. Boys behaving badly [the BBB club]. Allegedly covering up for each other and bullying others to conform [down] to their self-interest standards. Maybe it’s because men are more accustomed and accepting of these behaviours than women? Maybe the women in these circles refused to take part?
Sound familiar? Add to this observation; the corruption that’s been uncovered in the banking sector, behaviours in our federal political arena, and dare I mention US politics; there are some glaringly obvious similarities in the causes behind these issues:
Women are NOT the ones who need fixing here.
There’s good reason for women all over Australia to be frustrated to the point of exasperation at the moment. No wonder the current federal governing party has seen capable, good women resign from office, or say NO to being part of that notable BBB club. While it’s sad to see them leave representative lead roles, I applaud the stance they have taken.
They have chosen INTEGRITY and their reputation, over self-preservation and conforming to party games that go against their personal values. They have courageously spoken out against bullying, threats and manipulative deals. They are standing up against the entrenched processes that make it more difficult for women to be pre-selected. They chose greater-good society outcomes, rather than good-for-the-party outcomes.
Now, while many regional Local Government Councillors are not political party aligned, I saw the same strong value of personal INTEGRITY passionately on display at the ALGWA conference. Women saying: ‘Don’t assume I’m one of the BBB club’ … ‘Don’t judge me guilty of others behaviours’. Rightly so.
One thing I know from working closely with women in leadership roles: most take their responsibility as role-models for the next wave of women leaders – very seriously. They are acutely aware that the entrenched systems designed by men for the benefit of men, and the current behaviour of the BBB club, is NOT encouraging women to jump right in there. They’ve had enough of gentle prodding and waiting for the desired response.
Times UP! We don’t need more proof. We don’t need more excuses. We certainly don’t need half-arse strategies that have no KPIs, targets or quotas to ensure more women can take their rightful place at decision-making tables.
I believe that targets and quotas will not cause unfairness to men. In fact, it will go some way to address the unfairness that’s already there; the imbalance [and questionable behaviours] that’s been ‘the norm’ for a long time. It’s simply putting in place a pro-active strategy, rather than an aspirational one - based on hope.
Oh, and one more thing: before you roll out the tired old fear campaign comments: – more women at the top will NOT reduce the capability at leadership levels. Women are already competent, confident, capable and courageous … and ready. No, they are not perfect, but then again … well I don’t think I need to spell it out any further.
Recent governance reporting paints a clear picture. While men still run our country, the majority of our governing bodies, most of our large influential organisations, and much of our regional communities; I’m not convinced that’s been working out so well.
No, I’m NOT saying ‘throw out all male leaders’ and ‘replace them all with capable women’. Gender equality is not about a female take-over. It's about fairness, more equal responsibilities, and more equal representation of our communities.
So, in a nutshell, the 3 key points I'd like you to take from this blog are:
- Time’s UP for the old style ‘BBB’ club. That is not acceptable leadership behaviour.
- Greater gender equality at decision-making tables will potentially improve governance standards, leadership capability, respectful interactions, and more inclusive practices.
- Women don’t need fixing. The traditions and systems that hold them back – need changing.
Women are READY, WILLING and CAPABLE leaders of change.
Bring it on!
Written by Jilinda Lee - recognised leadership coach and mentor for leaders and managers, Chartered Manager ambassador for the Institute of Managers and Leaders, and champion partner of the Lean In global movement – encouraging and enabling more women to step up into lead roles.
Vital Leaders mission is to develop more dynamic, authentic, and emotionally intelligent, engaging leaders.