Thursday, 19 January 2012

How can we create a better balance between masculine and feminine leadership styles?

"The 21st century is the time for women to reclaim their voices and men their hearts” Jane Fonda.

During a recent executive coaching program, one of my senior male executives expressed his confusion at receiving a 360 degree feedback report comment from a team member, that his decisions were far “too rational” and excluded any kind of “intuitive or feeling” elements. 

My client had been blessed with a comprehensive quality education in a highly competitive, private school in Australia. He had received his Masters Degree in Economics, from Sydney University and was 20 years into a very successful career in one of the top 4 national financial institutions.  He was deeply shocked and seriously disappointed to receive what he considered to be ‘negative feedback’ and wondered “why might this be so?”

After exploring this issue during our coaching program, he was able to recognise that his core strengths in his role at the bank, was his competitive, linear and rational thinking process.  This enabled him to make and deliver almost 100% accurate economic reports. He later bravely shared his feedback with his all male team, and they discussed why this feedback was so important. The team realised that whilst they were a high achieving, task focussed and effective business unit, they were, somehow, out of balance!

The most important revelation was that their division, whilst employing several female analysts, they lacked even one woman in any kind of senior role! 

Further discussion, accompanied by the instability, uncertainty and volatility of the financial markets due to the ongoing GFC, they pinpointed three inherent qualities that they would either need to develop, or bring into and blend into the talent pool to create a more inclusive and balanced culture- collaboration, holistic and intuitive thinking.

Being a truly courageous and proactive leader, as a first step, he and his all male executive team, willingly embarked on an Emotional Intelligence Learning Journey, to better understand and learn how to be more collaborative, intuitive and see things holistically. They also invited senior female executives from other divisions within the bank, to share their success stories and learning’s.  We then worked on identifying and developing the required mindsets, behaviours and practices behind being more collaborative, global and intuitive. 

Only when they, themselves, became consciously conscious, they redefined their business purpose, strategy and structure, and clarified key roles and responsibilities, from a more balanced perspective. After much soul searching, and 6 months of serious team, leadership and culture development activities, as well as serious targeted recruitment efforts, my client and his team felt that a more suitable balance had been achieved.

Amazingly, this banks share price, despite the current Eurozone Crisis, has only reduced by 3.4%, as their key economic forecasting division had collaborated with other key divisions and adopted a holistic global outlook and intuited the whole event!

Finding the Balance

How do we find the balance between masculine and feminine values as leaders?

Monday, 12 December 2011

Women and Leadership

How to Succeed in Business as a Woman Being a Woman! 
One of the first and most critical decisions I made when I commenced my corporate career in the 1980’s, was to pursue success as a woman being a woman and not trying to be like a man. These were the halcyon days of Australian retailing, when we ‘shopped till we dropped’, and enjoyed ‘power dressing’ and the material success and wealth of a myopic and abundant world.

I had a coveted role in senior management, as Fashion Direction Manager, at the famous Sydney based Grace Bros. (now Myers) Department Stores. This was the first step towards a global position that took me regularly, on consumer and trend research trips to Europe, the USA and Japan.
It meant becoming a fashion icon, as well as the key Australian fashion industry spokesperson.
As I started to meet and observe my fellow female executives, I immediately noticed three behavioural trends:  

  1. Women acting as if they were men,  being very political, building personal power base, being formidable and generally tough.
  2. Women acting as if they didn’t care how they acted or how others responded to them, being quite eccentric and often what appeared to be dysfunctional.
  3. Women acting as if they were gender neutral, floating along,  just doing the job, passively, heads down in the very best way they knew how to.
None of these choices suited me, so I decided to rock the boat, dance to a different drum, and play a different game.
Not knowing then, that this powerful and significant choice would lead to a transformational and learning journey that has now spanned almost three decades!
So why is this important and what does this really mean?

As women in leadership we are continually faced with a multitude of choices around who we are being 24/7!  One of the most critical success factors for any leader is to make a fundamental choice about what kind of impact you want to have on those you lead.  Whether it is just one person, a team, a business unit, or an entire organisation!

This is the most important step to being an effective leader, because you can not not impact.
  • Step one is to choose the kind of impact you want to have. As a leader my intention is to always create the space for someone to feel good about themselves, so that they can then be willing to the best they can be.
  • Step two is to choose who you are willing to be, as a leader.   My intention, which I review and recalibrate, on a regular basis, is to be authentic, courageous, inspiring, esteeming, generous and kind.
  • Step three is to choose the most appropriate behaviours. To be intentional around what you do and say as a leader, so that your impact is always useful and positive to engage, motivate and inspire follower-ship.
I have found, however, that this is not an easy game to play.
Other women, who may have made different and often opposing choices, may be less self aware and intentional than you. They may find this way of being confrontational and challenging. 
This may cause conflict, struggle and rivalry in your workplace, which then impacts on your emotional state and you effectiveness as a manager and as a leader.
It also creates what EI (Emotional Intelligence) master, Daniel Goleman, calls an unpleasant “subterranean emotional economy”: a negative environment, where no-one flourishes, achieves or succeeds!
How you handle situations like this is really important!
If you would like a complimentary 30 minute executive coaching telephone session to explore and resolve this idea or issue further personally, please contact me now at
Please also see www.janetsernack.comfor my personal profile and story and for my corporate profile and range of professional consulting services.