Leadership Insight: Full Spectrum Leadership

Even though research shows that organizations with high levels of gender diversity are more likely to exceed financial performance averages in their respective industries, women are radically underrepresented in leadership positions.

Percentage of female representation:
• Head of State: 5%
• Parliament: 13%
• Corporate sector: 15%
• Non-profit world: 20%

Just as alarming as the low representation in leadership positions is the disconnect between public sentiment and actual reality.

• In a global survey of 64,000 people in 13 countries, two-thirds of respondents ranked feminine leadership traits as essential to solving today’s most pressing problems.
• Research out of MIT suggests that group intelligence is correlated with the number of women on a team.
• New research from Gallup found that retail stores with more gender diversity experienced a significantly higher revenue growth rate.
• Research from Catalyst found that Fortune 500 companies with the highest percentages of women board directors had an average of 66% higher ROI than those with the least.

Even though the research clearly shows that the businesses would be more successful with a balanced gender distribution amongst its leaders, little has been done to gap this divide. In fact, the number of female leaders has been steadily declining since 2002. Simply promoting feminine leadership or raising awareness is clearly not the solution. The solution is to make it less an issue of male vs. female, but rather an issue of evoking the necessary qualities to successfully navigate the challenges in the chaotic business environment.

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Full Spectrum Leadership is the ability to possess a balance of both “masculine” and “feminine” traits and having the emotional intelligence to know when to utilize each. According to Anne Cummings, (Professor at Wharton and University of Minnesota at Duluth) men tend to be more task-oriented while women take on a more interpersonal style of leadership. Therefore, a masculine style tends toward assertive and task-based behaviors, while a feminine style is more relationship oriented and “democratic. Additionally, men tend to take greater intellectual risks and have higher self-esteem, whereas “women are coping” and tend to be more efficient when it comes to solving problems. Women also need to understand the culture of their organizations in order to build a legacy.

Full Spectrum Leadership is built on four pillars:

• Trust: Establishing a solid relationship built on confidence
• Receptivity: Being sensitive to others and using intuition as a compass
• Vulnerability: Being aware of one’s limitations and asking for help when appropriate
• Inclusiveness: Soliciting, and listening to, many voices

Gender biases run deep and are often engrained. In fact, workers’ general notions about the effectiveness of male and female managers can be as important as their actual leadership abilities or business results.

In order for Full Spectrum Leadership to be effective, organizations must:

• Raise awareness of implicit bias and create programs to combat it.
Even very small amounts of unconscious bias can result in dramatic differences in the numbers of women reaching the top.
• Depolarize the issue and enroll men in the gender equity movement.
This is a business issue, not a just a women’s issue. Having honest and thoughtful conversations can help remove the harmful stereotypes.
• Create workplaces that reward both feminine and masculine leadership styles.
When employees are better educated on what leadership traits actually are, instead of what they believe they are, they become more discerning to actual leadership ability (IE confidence does not equal competence).

Full Spectrum Leadership is a powerful approach that requires a large amount of emotional intelligence and self-awareness. Leaders should schedule in time to unplug from the office and reconnect with themselves. Investing time, resources and energy into refining and utilizing natural talents and Strengths allows leaders to serve their teams more authentically.

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