Blogs

For ambitious women leaders the path to success is individual: Change, navigate and leverage the context (2020)

Paul Vanderbroeck

Don’t wait for the world to change. Find your own individual way

 

Don’t wait for the world to change or for some quota to propel you to the top. Find your own individual way. I am reminded of this maxim, after reading a recent publication in HBR. The study concludes from researching a consulting firm that male and female’s attitudes to work-life balance are pretty hard wired. Consequently, “what holds women back at work is not some unique challenge of balancing the demands of work and family but rather a general problem of overwork that prevails in contemporary corporate culture.”Obviously, the authors suggest that the problem gets solved once the firm agrees to reasonable work hours.

 

But what does that mean? Reducing work hours for everybody and reducing salaries proportionately and hiring more staff to do the work? Or reducing work hours without reducing salaries? In the one case the firm may suffer from being less competitive on the talent market. In the latter the firm will suffer from being less competitive in the business market. What is more, many companies are operating in a global market, competing against others from a different social-economic culture with different attitudes toward work-life balance.

 

Rather, the company as a whole should go full steam. While at the same time offering career flexibility that permits talent to decelerate and accelerate their careers according to their individual desires and needs. It’s important to remind ourselves that such practices already exist in different industries, e.g. Procter & Gamble and AvivaFlexwork does provide both risks and opportunities and should not be dismissed up front. Also rewarding managers for using the entire talent pool – as applied by Unilever - brings positive results for gender balance in management.  

 

Therefore, finding your own individual way to the top first of all means changing the context. If your organisation does not offer a structure and culture that is conducive to your potential and – very importantly – to combining work and career in the way that suits you best, find a better one.

 

If you cannot or do not want to change the context, learn to navigate the context: by knowing how to negotiate your salaryby adapting your communication to your (male) audienceby managing your performance appraisal, and by taking charge of your work-life balance

 

Other than that, leverage the context by taking charge of your own leadership development. Learn how to be authentic and use leadership development tools, e.g. the Global Executive Leadership Mirror to your advantage.

KDVI Writer's Colony, 2020

Add Comment

Article Comments

Hanneke

Mar 9, 7:24 PM

Thanks for your energizing blog, Paul. It motivates to reflect and take control of our own destiny!

Go back


Related content

One key obstacle for women to be identified and selected for senior roles is "leadership cloning”

Too feminine or not feminine enough? How to leverage your difference as a woman leader

Authenticity - which comes down to leveraging difference - is the key to career success as a woman leader. But women often find themselves in a double-bind - needing to fit the prevailing leadership prototype in order to be successful while at the same time needing to stay authentic. How do you get out of this double bind? Wait for organisations to change their leadership development and come up with a truly gender-neutral system? This is likely to make you miss the boat. The solution is rather in finding a way to become successful in the existing system. This blog explains how a psychodynamic approach to leadership development can help female leaders to be authentic.

Published on 7 Feb, 2018

Coaching female leaders with narcissistic tendencies

Coaching the Narcissistic Woman Leader

Following on from his first blog, 'Can a Woman Leader be a Narcissist', Paul's second blog explores specific approaches towards coaching female leaders with narcissistic tendencies. The blog provides insights for Executive and Leadership Development Professionals to customise leadership development to the individual strengths and weaknesses of women in the talent pool. 

Published on 15 Aug, 2018

What successful women do to withhold them from growing further –  And what they should do instead

What successful women do to withhold them from growing further – And what they should do instead

What is next? How do I realise my future ambitions? Annette explores practical steps women can take to grow further in leadership.

"Aging and quality of life"

Old Ages is No Place for Sissies

This working paper deals with a rather taboo subject: the consequences of prolonging life into extreme old age, now possible with advances in medical procedures.

Published on 25 Apr, 2015

"Succession & when it's time to let go"

When it's Time for the CEO to Go

This blog entry with the Harvard Business Review discusses the three phases of a CEO's lifespan and what happens when leaders outstay their time and performance starts to decline.

Published on 14 Mar, 2014

Make your natural talents work in your favour through awareness."

How Early Life Experiences Could Play For and Against Us in the Executive Boardroom

Early life experiences accompany us all the way to the executive boardroom. This blog explores how childhood family dynamics can have a direct influence on executives' work experience, including: preference for certain way of working in a team; relationship with peers and authority; approach to stakeholder management; and performance. 

Published on 14 Jun, 2018

Nearly half of adults in the US have reported experiencing a psychiatric disorder at some point in their lives

The Four Types of Dysfunctional Executives and How to Handle Them

Basic understanding and empathy can go a long way in helping toxic leaders recover their best selves.

Published on 9 Apr, 2018

Inscribe courageous conversations into organisational DNA

Corporate Heaven: The ‘Authentizotic’ Organisation

How to create an organisation where people find meaning in, and are captivated by, their work.

Published on 21 Jun, 2019

Sex, Money, Happiness and Death: The Quest for Authenticity

Sex, Money, Happiness and Death: The Quest for Authenticity

Manfred Kets de Vries takes readers out of their comfort zone in this book. It intends to focus executives on what really counts in their lives and to shake academics down from their ivory towers and make them more attuned to the real problems of real people, instead of trying to impress each other.

Published on 15 Apr, 2009

"The destabilizing effect of CEO retirement"

The Dark Side of Retirement

This blog entry with the Harvard Business Review he discusses the darker side of retirement.

Published on 28 Feb, 2014