"Effective leadership is not about making speeches or being liked; leadership is defined by results and not attributes" - Peter F. Drucker
I've come across 2 types of leaders. One type is bossy and conveys "shut up and do as I say". They are authoritarian. The other type is democratic and conveys "we're equal and let's work together". They are participative. More leaders today are participative and rarelt authoritarian. Yet, while believe that everyone is equal, they also believe that everyone is the "same". And that is where the problem lies.
People with different sexual orientations, people with disabilities, from different backgrounds are actively seeking to participate in the workplace. As organisations place higher emphasis on diversity, inclusivity and work flexibility, leadership norms need to adapt.
However, leaders continue to work in the same way that they have for so many decades now. A fundamental lack of leadership in recognizing and adapting to the changing landscape can hurt organizations.
Acknowledging the fundamental difference between how women and men work or behave is essential. Simply asking women to be more like men isn't going to help.
LeanIn provides profound insights into this. It also has some great tips on how women can be aware of these attitudes, and take small strides to navigate them. It is a great book, and one that resonated personally.
However, the fundamental flaw in the system remains uncorrected.
We are are equal but we're also different, aren't we ?
So we really need to question - Why are outdated standards, based on privileged male behavior, still adhered to? Shouldn't leaders of today set new standards for organisation culture? Should we continue to evaluate a fish by its ability to climb a tree?
Mindset, perceptions and having more privileged men in leadership roles contribute to this. I feel that anyone in a leadership role (irrespective of gender) needs to go the extra mile to ensure that there is fairness & equal opportunity. But these opportunities shouldn't require everyone to conform to outdated social etiquettes.
Below are some simple things for new age leaders to consider:
When loud, chest thumping alpha personalities (of any gender) dominate conversations, there is hardly any room for an alternate opinion. See how peer pressures can lead to conformity. This can adversely affect innovation. Leaders need to reconsider how to conduct discussions, elicit ideas, and avoid conformance biases (e.g. Write down ideas instead of an open discussion)
In spite of anti harassment policies, most organizations skirt around day-to-day harassment issues. Disasters such as this, this and this keep cropping up, and yet not much happens on the ground to address harassment at workplaces. Leaders must familiarise themselves about what constitutes harassment. They must be courageous to fire anyone who is guilty of harassment, irrespective of their talent, skill and clout.
We live in a very connected world today. Yet, technology driven organizations continue to place undue emphasis on co-located working. Communication, co-ordination and connectivity tools are abundant, and it is rarely required be in the same room to share information. Yet, archaic views and personal mind blocks rule the roost. "it will affect morale" "it will reduce productivity" "it is not practical for our team" etc. are common excuses. Leaders need to re-evaluate team communication in the context of business needs. Experiment with compulsory work from home and redefine communication paradigms for teams. Understand myths about WFH
It exists. And the hard part is that women cannot have a sane discussion about this with anyone. It is unrealistic for a woman to challenge an established male culture. Also, it implicitly cuts-off anyone (well, mostly women) who doesn’t drink, can't stay up late, can't tolerate sexist jokes to be excluded and isolated. It sends a message that they are and will always be outsiders, unless they want to become a "bro" too. Changing this culture has to start with the men. Male leadership needs to understand and accept that this is a real problem.
Marketing & Messaging
It is quite sad when brands resort to age-old stereotypes in ads and marketing messages. Businesses need to own their messaging “Are we objectifying women?" "Are we perpetrating racial biases?" "Can our brand messaging challenge defunct social norms?” Leaders need to take ownership of content – on websites, social media etc. They need to constantly adapt to the changing societal norms. It must become part of a leader's day job. Leaders must be held accountable for the content they put out.
Most of us will accept that mentoring is a large part of being a leader. In fact, great leaders are the ones that create leaders. Yet, it can be quite hard for men to mentor women. Even more so for women leaders - partly because men (and even women) hesitate to accept women as leaders. Leaders need to understand the dynamics of mentoring people of a different gender. Personally, I find it easier to mentor women. But I am usually second-guessing or even clueless when it comes to mentoring men. However, bridging this gap must be essential for the new generation of leaders.
Today's leaders cannot settle to be just a manager. Organisations cannot settle for grand speeches and impressive personalities. They cannot afford to stick to defunct practices. Organizations need to redefine their leadership norms with better accountability as well as adapting to changing social trends.