With the number of women on boards at woefully low levels in many parts of the world, it is unsurprising that initiatives designed to increase representation are being introduced. Trouble is, these initiatives move at a glacial pace and the big loser isn’t women - it is business itself.
The significant finding in the recently published Ketchum Leadership Communication Monitor (alongside the poor performance of leaders in general) was ‘a new leadership model, driven by the new breed of ‘Leadership eVangelist’, centered on a more ‘feminine’ leadership archetype and based on a set of clear guiding principles’.
In short, the study found that effective communication is critical but leaders aren’t performing against expectations. However, when present, female leaders outperform male leaders when it comes to the most important ‘leader attributes’ of leading by example, communicating in an open and transparent way, admitting mistakes, bringing out the best in others and in their calm handling of controversial issues or crises.
Again, it is unsurprising that in the wider world, faith in existing business models has been either lost or undermined and despite the clear indicators that female leadership equals success there is still considerable resistance to change.
Logic would tell us that at some point, something has to give and, having advised businesses large and small over the years, I anticipate a fresh approach based around the emerging social business, led by women everywhere who simply can’t be bothered messing around waiting for old, hierarchical models to come into line with 21st century thinking.
A nimble, responsive and relationship based business model with open leadership that encourages creative and collaborative environments can move faster and stay leaner than the cumbersome and clumsy business structures of old.
I would suggest that women are ideally placed to simply take charge of the social business and lead the way to new, better ways of doing things. After all, a social business is not frightened of its customers. It is happy to listen and respond in the places the customer frequents. A social business works from the inside out - involving employees, suppliers, distributors - whoever forms a critical relationship that helps maintain the licence to operate.
A social business puts out a hand, it doesn't put up barriers. Social business is quick to correct, happy to change, swift to grow. A social business is simply a place where people (women and men) are at the heart of its operations. Ten years ago when I first started talking to companies about becoming a social business, not many were ready to make that sort of shift, but in today’s relationship economy it really has become an imperative - adapt or die to be precise.
So laudable as the various initiatives may be (and they should still be encouraged) I would suggest that women stop waiting around for change and make a move. In chess, the most powerful piece on the board is the queen. She can move in any direction, over any distance and is not bound by the same parameters as the other pieces, affording both strategic and tactical advantage. The best move for women at the moment is to leave old barriers behind and go build a bigger, better and more sustainable way to work. Because women are ideally placed to do so and eminently qualified to lead the way.
Photo credit: www.123rf.com/profile_roopert