Updated: Feb 6
Does leadership have a gender? How my views on female leadership have evolved throughout the years and framework I use today.
From Madeleine Albright's "There is a special place in hell for women who don't support other women" to Ray Dalio's idea meritocracy at a workplace - this very much sums up my journey as a female professional having worked with brilliant women and equally bright men across different countries and markets.
I was born in a country where constitutional equality of men and women rights was proclaimed earlier than in the majority of the countries around the world. To add - the tragic aftermath of the two World Wars, old regime collapse on the eve of the XXI century - all contributed to the phenomena where the women took the lead in many areas.
Yet this didn't mean the patriarchic mental setup of the nation was evolving with the pace matching reality change. Until joining management consulting the subject of female leadership for me has been more an emotional reflection on people's stories and own feelings, than a matter of structure and strategy.
Framing Female Leadership
About six years ago, on a day, when I was still settling in my new office and having just a mere idea of what it takes to succeed in a corporate world after drastic switch from the Academia, an envelop landed on my desk. Inside - "How Remarkable Women Lead" (Book 1 in the recommended reading list) by Joanna Barsh, generously shipped to me by a firm.
The book is remarkable in itself and remains my go-to gift idea for young females I am mentoring and friends with children at the exciting "undergraduate and graduate stage" of their lives. The book provides a set of stories of females in a leadership position, from Princeton University' Shirley Tilghman, Spencer Stuart's Julie Daum to Christine Laguard, back that time France' minister for economy, ﬁnance, and employment.
The stories are used to showcase how the Centered Leadership framework, consisted of 5 principles the inspiring women use as guidance, works. This is certainly an easy read, however, it is the practice and consistency of the applications of the principles which s difficult and requires commitment. The good news, it works - humbly, from personal experience.
Pivoting on the concept of a principle - it was Ray Dalio who brought and propagated the idea of meritocracy to millions of minds. The ultimate objective of this principle application - attaining meaningful work and meaningful relationships. For those who are familiar with Joanna Barsh's work mentioned earlier - this most surely "rings a bell". Furthermore, in theory, women would be even more prone to idea meritocracy than men. In reality - depends. I've encountered both, females who have built careers on advocating for women with mere or no result at all and those who have built themselves with impressive track record results while barely making any difference for aspiring women around. Both - are the tales of a bell curve. The majority - and this is what optimistic and promising about the world we live in- drifting consciously and/or involuntarily toward idea meritocracy for the organizations where ideas get weight is not based on gender, empathy, sense of guilt, personnel policy addendum, but based on the strengths and weaknesses of individuals.
Blue Ocean for Today and Future Female Leaders
In continuation of the hymn of an Opportunity, the previous paragraphs have referred to equivocally. All those female stories, be they taken from a book dated 2009 or today's Instagram stories 2019 - prove one thing, we live in the time of abundant opportunities to create Blue Ocean for female professional success. This holds true for all - Jo Malone, Madaleine Albright and even Natalia and her ideas.
I wouldn't find better footage to complete this note, than having two inspiring females talking business and how to create those opportunities.
Books worth reading:
Book 1. How Remarkable Women Lead: The Breakthrough Model for Work and Life, by Joanna Barsh, Susie Cranston, Geoffrey Lewis
Book 2. Blue Ocean Strategy, Expanded Edition: How to Create Uncontested Market Space and Make the Competition Irrelevant by W. Chan Kim, Renée Mauborgne
Book 3. Jo Malone: My Story by Jo Malone