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.

No comments:

Post a Comment