Month: October 2012

Lead like a woman

I had a chance to volunteer and in turn be a participant at a workshop of a group called “Lead like a woman”. The workshop was on working with egos. It went for three hours and had three women who shared their experiences – situation and their response. They paused after explaining the situation to let audience think and then share in small groups on what they would’ve done.
As a facilitator I was impressed by the structure, facilitation and location of the workshop. It was organized in crypts of an old church which is associated with King Henry IV (I think) and I don’t know the story but there was some link to the king and his ego. There were candles all over, a pianist and an illustrator to capture the discussions. Very thoughtful aura to enhance the experience.
Facilitation was through stories which is picking up in learning quite a lot these days. As a facilitator I have believed in power of stories in effective retention, assimilation and subsequent acculturation. This workshop had high impact stories and that made it exceptional. Three successful women shared stories around ambition, politics and leadership and mentioned a challenge they faced in their work life. They paused to let audience discuss what they could’ve done etc. They then shared what they really did.
The first story was when a company was acquired and there was a need for senior management. A lot of team were against the candidate that the management thought was good for the position of Chief information officer. The woman called for a meeting with the team for open discussion on what could be done about the situation and who else might be an appropriate candidate to take up the role.
The second story was of a woman who was hiring an employee under her and realised that the compensation offered to her direct report was more than her salary. On confronting the HR/ Management, she was told that she did not need as much money because she was a single woman and the other guy was a  man supporting a family. She pushed the company to compare compensation of men and women and proved this bias against salary of all the women in the organization. It took two years to get this biased fixed and compensation based on work effort rather than personal agendas.
The third story was of a partner in a firm who made a proposal that was rejected by everyone else in a meeting. The situation shifted due to her role change and she was eventually able to execute her proposal at much larger scale.
These were stories of courage to pursue what you believe in; of looking at the larger good than personal benefits, it eventually had personal benefits involved; of looking at the ‘we’ and not ‘me’; and, of knowing yourself and managing your emotions.
A pattern that has been continually emerging for me in leaders, men or women, is that they make it for larger good. In most cases their beliefs are formed through their own experiences and not through observing others, their agendas purely personal to the extent of pure selfishness in many cases. It is the representation that is not personal. They talk about how everyone is impacted, or focus on work or the problem at hand. Its not always care they feel for others or greater good they want to do for the society. They realize that if it gets fixed for everyone, it works for their benefit. They have the courage to stand up where others flinch. And they eventually are successful because their personal ambition benefits others in some way, their beliefs resonate with others. And when it does not, they are able to inspire others to see what they see. Hitler was able to inspire others into killing Jews. Some people will find this offensive that speak of him together with Hitler, but Gandhi had his personal agendas and he was able to inspire others on penance and non-violence. People believed in the cause – freedom, but non-violence may not have been their instrument. Gandhi had his personal agenda – discrimination against him, and he had the courage to speak up and he created a path for others to follow – path of non-violence.
Coming back to Lead like a woman. Women have distinct characteristics and it is fascinating to follow women in leadership positions, the enablers and the bottlenecks to their success. The stories are different, the challenges are different and their take on it is different too.