In their book “How Remarkable Women Lead,” Joanna Barsh and Susie Cranston (New York, Crown Business, 2009,) share their perspectives on women and leadership. Here is a selection of their most interesting observations from their point of view and that of the women they studied.
I learned how they used their strengths, their optimism, their sense of belonging, their power, and their energy to prevail in service of a purpose.
I shifted from focusing only on my deficits to building on strength. I practiced reciprocity––and gained a powerful feeling of belonging. I took charge of my fears by reframing setbacks as opportunities and I went after them.
When the leader––or the parent––pauses, she not only gives herself a chance to really listen, she gives her team ahead and solve the problem.
Centered Leadership doesn’t make adversity go away and it doesn’t make life sunnier and more fun than it is in reality. What it does is help each of us become aware of our thoughts, our feelings, and our actions––extending our range of responses that make the difference between seizing the day and hiding from it.
Imagine a world with women and men leaders who are vulnerable and powerful, empathic and self–aware, grounded and connected––leaders equipped to address the enormous challenges of complexity, volatility, and increasing pace of change.
At its core were deep emotional connections: to work, to personal meaning and mission, to achievement, to nurturing instincts, and to a strong feeling of belonging. To joy.
You’ll know when your passions are engaged, because you’ll feel your heart race. You’ll know when you’ve found activities that engage you and build on your strengths, because you’ll look forward to them with anticipation. And you’ll know when you’ve discovered your purpose, because it will just feel right.
Simply deploying your strengths in activities you choose out of interest will get you to a deeper satisfaction. That’s engagement and it’s good in and of itself.
Purpose is what drives you. It’s the source of your inspiration and the compass that guides your way to making a difference, and at the same time, to the deepest level of happiness.
…it’s not just about the goal but about the journey toward it. The journey toward your goal provides happiness and meaning––more than actually reaching the goal ever can.
Still, you do have to protect yourself. You have to be sane. You have to be strong and healthy.
But it’s not about whether they love you. They just want to achieve.
Most problems can be solved if we ensure that the right people with the right ideas are allowed to solve them.
“If there is one common theme around how we managed it, it’s about communicating. By talking with everyone all the time, we were able to find solutions.”
Disputation involves re–examining the situation and consciously separating how you experienced the incident emotionally from what actually happened. Start by refuting the emotional distortions the way a good lawyer would break down faulty evidence. Challenge the beliefs and assumptions implicit in your negative interpretation and re–examine the facts. Then try to understand the consequences of those beliefs. Finally, reframe: Take the undistorted facts and look at what you can do with them. How can you move ahead and address the real issues? Reframing and moving to action will energize you.
So, when stuff happens, remember to take time for a healthy distraction. You’ll not only feel better, but you may find a creative solution to what seems like an intractable problem. A break often leads to a breakthrough, when relief from stress allows your subconscious mind to relax and mull over the problem. And sometimes, you just need to move on. Displacement gives you the distance you need to be able to make that tough call.
You don’t have to find the impossible compromise that makes everybody happy. In challenging work situations, doing the same thing more intensely may be the worst thing we can do. Consider an entirely new strategy––and quickly. That’s adaptability.
Harvard professors Ronald Heifetz and Marty Linsky contend that many leaders fail to meet adaptive challenges because they cannot make the mental leap of faith to pursue a new course that does not have a guaranteed outcome.
But as much as many women work their hardest to be liked, don’t expect everyone to like you. … Everyone won’t go along, and some will try to block you. And as they show their displeasure, you may encounter resistance from a new face––you. Facing your own fears first will make you a better leader.
I think building a great team is the most important characteristic in a leader––the ability to touch people, give them a vision toward a higher goal, show them the path, and reward them when they do it, whether they do it with big steps or little ones.
I don’t think I’d be respected if I left a problem to fester or had the wrong person in the wrong job for too long and didn’t address it.
Connectedness is core to Centered Leadership because it addresses a deep human need. A leader with strong connections to colleagues and team members can share her sense of meaning and mission––inspiring others to make extraordinary commitment to the work. She can also draw wisdom, energy, and joy from those whom she connects with.
…when things go badly in the workplace, men are more likely to start shouting at one another, while women try to smooth over differences.
It goes back to how do you let them help. We changed from, “Let me tell you the answer” to “What do you think we ought to do?” Did we make them feel like they were worthwhile, or did we make them feel like they weren’t at all?
When we asked women leaders about connections, almost every one of them spoke about her team and the people in her company as much or even more than about her senior sponsors. They talked about the magic of teams and their pride in seeing the organization pulling together. They reported the same satisfaction from watching their people grow that they derive from their own families. Indeed, they often described their organizations as families.
While it’s hardly a breakthrough discovery that inclusiveness is a valuable leadership trait, the emphasis that our women leaders placed on it was too strong to ignore. As we learned, women are biologically primed to seek out and nurture relationships. The ancient reflex to “tend and befriend” survives today, passed down through social hormones that still influence our survival––and our success.
When community develops in the workplace, it makes the job rewarding….
…she wants people to tell her exactly what they think, as long as they communicate with kindness.
Research suggests that women often feel comfortable speaking up on someone else’s behalf but have a hard time speaking up for themselves. So we wait for others to recognize what we want. Yes, we wait. Why? Because it “means more” if someone else notices without our asking, women told us.
You also have many hardwired advantages: an emotional core, an ability to reframe, an ability to build deep relationships, adaptability.