…sometimes just for themselves. This blogpost could end up going badly wrong; maybe I should have had a drink before writing it, I’m straying into territory I haven’t entered before as I’m going to share my experience and observations about women in positions of leadership and management; so here goes!
Lets start with a sweeping statement; the workplace in the Public, Private and Voluntary sector, needs more women in positions of leadership and management…not for the sake of it, nor to hit an artificially imposed quota or a diktat from government about diversity in the boardroom. The workplace needs more women in positions of leadership and management because they are uniquely placed to bring the right blend of skills, attitudes, empathy and abilities to the table. And I say this because the evidence supports it. The world, its institutions, its gargantuan commercial organisations, its workforce, its population and its communities need more than the traditional single dimensional approach that has brought us to the place that we find ourselves in. And unless you have been on another planet or a desert island for the last ten years there is no denying that the world is in a pivotal place. If you doubt me, which you are of course free to do, just watch the news for 15 minutes or alternatively ask yourself the following question, “am I worried for the next generation?”.
But what the worlds institutions, their areas of interest and their workforces don’t need, is more women in positions of leadership and management who mimic the worst behaviours of their “formerly successful” male counterparts. The best boss I’ve ever had was a woman; her concern for the broader needs of her team and her colleagues was sincere and her ability to listen and empathise with multiple points of view was exceptional. She understood that leadership is about creating the conditions in which things can happen and the performance of her team was unsurpassed. The worst boss I’ve ever had was a woman, she seemed to want to let people know that she had the biggest balls (I know, but how else could I put it?) in the room and she ruled through fear and intimidation. The fear stifled all and any of the innovation that was needed and she oversaw a team that trod water and no more. I didn’t stick around.
As the world embarks on a journey into an era that requires a different approach, when in fact the very survival of our species on this planet demands that we adopt a different approach, when influential forward thinkers are finally starting to debunk the myth of the ever growing GDP as our solution to everything, new shinier slightly improved versions of the same are not what we need in our leaders and managers. It would be a genuine tragedy if the only way that women feel they can “succeed” in the world of work was to imitate the ways of the old boys club.
And for those women who may feel that the male species needs excluding from their party, make no mistake, the exclusivity of the sisterhood is no less ugly and inappropriate in a democratic society than the exclusivity of the old school tie brigade has always been. I imagine it could be easy for people to forget that no small amount of men have also found themselves on the wrong side of the old school tie and the brotherhood. As someone who has found himself on the wrong sides of both, I can assure you that the problem is the excluding and the discrimination itself, not the sex of the perpetrators.
I like the words of Charlie Chaplin, taken from the film The Great Dictator, they seem more appropriate than ever for the world we now find ourselves in; “Our knowledge has made us cynical. Our cleverness, hard and unkind. We think too much and feel too little. More than machinery we need humanity. More than cleverness, we need kindness and gentleness.” Who could argue with that, other than Alan Sugar; enough said?