Build Your Leaders

Postcard from Asheville

May 2012

When six seekers signed up, Ruth and I knew our “Seekers Salons” series was going to be a success. For four Sunday afternoons, our little group met to explore four topics designed to offer new possibilities, create deeper connections, and build community. 

Using dialogue, experiential exercises, and art we sought to betterunderstand our relationship to ourselves, each other, and our higher power and purpose. Each topic built upon the last; the meeting that resonated most with me was on the Sunday when we addressed the roles we play in our lives.

We began by listing those roles that were either assigned to us or chosen by us. My list soon included more than forty roles,includingthe obvious: teacher, student, friend, and businessman. We then put an “x” by roles that rob us of energy, and a check by those that give us energy.

When we asked the group which role they’d be willing to give up, I was surprised by my answer: businessman. Was I really ready to give up that role?

Much of my persona—or personal brand—is based upon being a successful businessman. Still, it is true: this role is robbing me of energy. Swiss psychiatrist Carl Jung once wrote: “We come to our later years and may realize that we are serving a diminished self, walking in shoes that are too small for us.”

Still, the thought of giving up the role scares me. As I write this, I can feel anxiety pooling in the pit of my stomach. Who am I if I give up my role as a businessman?

I haven’t yet decided to give up that role;instead, I’m sitting with it. The bird is out
of the cage, though. It’s just a matter of time.

What about you? Are there roles that are robbing you of energy, roles you may be ready to give up? 

Even more intriguing, are there roles you have yet to play that offer the potential for energizing your life? 

This month, we’ll take a look at some fascinating research about the C-suite.

C-Suite Guys, You’d Better Pay Attention

Recently Jack Zenger and Joseph Folkman, frequent contributors to the Harvard Business Review, released findings of an impressive research study focusing on men and women as leaders. Using 360-degree evaluations, they tracked the judgments of a leader's peers, bosses, and direct reports. They asked participants to rate each leader's effectiveness overall and to judge how strong s/he was in each of their sixteen competency areas.

Of course, 64 percent of leaders are still men. Also not surprising, the higher the level, the greater the percentage of men: 78 percent of the top managers surveyed were men, 67 percent at the next level down (that is, senior executives reporting directly to the top managers), and 60 percent at the manager level below that.

Likewise, our stereotypes tell us that female leaders are good at "nurturing" competencies such as "developing others and building relationships." Many people place "exhibiting integrity" and "engaging in self-development" in that category too.

However, the advantages women demonstrated were not just the traditional strengths. "In fact, at every level, more women were rated as better overall leaders than their male counterparts by their peers, their bosses, their direct reports, and their other associates."

Nevertheless, the results get even more interesting: the higher the level in the organization, the wider the discrepancy between male and female leaders. Therefore, at the highest level, women scored ten percentiles better (67.7 versus 57.7) than their male counterparts—a 17.3 percent difference!

The rest of the results were fascinating: more specifically, women at all levels received higher ratings in 12 of the 16 competencies that go into outstanding leadership. Moreover, two of the traits where women outscored men to the highest degree—taking initiative and driving for results—havelong been considered particularly male strengths.

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