Do you wonder what the world would be like if half of our world leaders, military commanders, parliaments and cabinets were composed of women? Would the world be more prosperous, more educated, less violent, less environmentally destructive, more . . . well, better?
It is well-known that I am a raging advocate for elevating more women into leadership. In a few weeks, October 26-27
, I will be training a group of women to have more influence and impact through their career and in their workplace. For me, this work is vital.
My viewpoint is based on two things, my decades of experience with women leaders and science. The science is clear. When women constitute a third of leadership positions from top to bottom in organizations they outperform organizations with fewer women leaders on every relevant measure
. Business organizations grow faster, make more money, produce more innovations and enjoy more customer loyalty. This research has been conducted by consulting firms such as McKinsey and Co, PWC, Deloitte, Bain and Company and many others and is documented in the book Broad Influence
. These facts have been widely reported in the Wall Street Journal, Fortune, The Economist, Harvard Business Review and other hard business publications.
Furthermore, the Group Intelligence Lab at MIT has conducted over 150 group intelligence experiments that found that adding women to complex group problem-solving always leads to higher-quality solutions. The experimenters attribute this to groups with at least 30% women who demonstrate greater thinking versatility and collaborative inclusion than men.
Thinking versatility is the ability to consider many different options before committing to action. Collaborative inclusion is the ability to generate divergent thinking that takes advantage of cognitive diversity and then drive to action through social alignment.
As we consider this data and apply it to female politicians there is one more thing to consider. Brain scientists who map neuro-networks report that, in general, female brains have more brain activity in areas that enable us to think beyond our personal self-interest.
Both science and common sense suggests that if we are serious about creating a world with any hope of sustainable abundance . . . a "world that works for everyone
" . . . we ought to elevate more women as fast as possible. A catalyst for such an experiment would be the ascension of a woman to the US presidency. It would seem to be an ideal time for this to occur. The man running for president is uniquely disturbing professionally, politically and personally. Yet the woman-advantage that should be enjoyed by Hillary Clinton is largely masked by catastrophically poor leadership communication. She should be inspiring and influential yet she is so much less than she could be. So I want to use her challenges to offer you some clear skills that I have used to help women advance
Of course, Hillary has her shining moments, for instance in the last debate, and for 11 grueling hours before a congressional committee. But poll after the poll reveals that in the one area she should excel at, she fails. She fails to engender widespread trust, and trust is at the root of effective leadership.
It is no mystery why she is failing to sustain citizen trust and what she must do to gain enough trust to be elected and have a successful presidency. The lessons that Hillary should put into action are the same lessons for any women who want to have more influence or to rise to higher leadership positions.
First, women must understand that the trust bar is higher for them than it is for men.
This may not be morally right but it is a sociological fact. (I always coach my female clients not to worry about fairness, but rather focus on effectiveness.)
Humans seem to be attracted to strong men who act in their self-interest. We are susceptible to a common un-examined belief that if we follow a strong-man- bully that we will benefit from the crumbs off his table. This is why deadly dictators have been supported through the centuries. It is primal emotional thinking. Benefits may flow to the dictators' inner circle for short period of time. But all of history shows that the dictators' strength creates blindness in himself and Groupthink in his advisers. The results are catastrophic, yet vulnerable human beings seem unable to drop the bad habit of being attracted to strong, crazy men who promise impossible riches, dominance, and personal security. In men, we trust words of strength. We cling to the promises of the dictator that his self-interest will be in our best interest. This, of course, is never true.
The social standard humans apply to women who want to be leaders is that they must be both strong and warm. As the ancient Greeks insisted, women leaders must be both the warrior Athena and the mother Hera. This is just as true in the workplace as it is in politics. My friend Stephen M.R. Covey, who wrote the brilliant book, The Speed of Trust
, tells us that successful leaders engender trust through both competence (strength) and character (warmth). He points out that followers willchoose competence over character when push comes to shove. But I have found this to be less true in the case of women leaders. Psychologically, we seem to be uncomfortable with women who are strong and invulnerable. Instinctively we don't trust their character. Yet if women are too vulnerable we question their competence. This is what frustrates so many women leaders.
Here are the ways I simplify this challenging conundrum of strength and warmth:
FIRST, to generate trust built on strength, a woman has to articulate her capabilities and provide proof points from the result she has achieved. This sounds easy but many women are uncomfortable broadcasting their proven capabilities. Nevertheless it is not optional. I have found the best way to do this is through personal storytelling. I coach women to think of three relevant, challenging experiences in which they use their personal strengths and force of will to overcome obstacles that resulted in success. It is important that these examples have a pay-off of group success rather than personal career advancement. We tend to trust women the most when they are fighting for the benefits of others. These could be citizens or customers or work-teams. Stories that are most impressive are ones in which you use creative persistence to achieves surprising results. That's the wow factor.
I would score Hillary very low on this proven strategy. She likes to tick off her accomplishments as a list rather than a story. Lists of achievements do not engage others. Lists may validate credibility but do not engender trust. For Hillary to finish strong she needs to come up with three citizen-relevant success stories in which she demonstrates her creative persistence in achieving goals that matter to other people.
The second and biggest challenge for Hillary is to convince people she is not driven by self-interest.
Although this might be acceptable for a man it is totally unacceptable for a woman. The principal reason that over 50% of Americans doesn't trust Hilary is that she is unwilling to disclose her private motives. Her opponents paint her as vainly ambitious. If she stayed in her marriage to preserve her family that is admirable. If she stayed to preserve her power base, that is sickening. We really don't know because she hasn't told us.
Her opponents have even been able to paint her co-leadership of the Clinton Foundation as being self-serving rather than humanitarian. Presenting facts of the millions of lives the Foundation has saved or benefited is useless. People are not persuaded by facts. They are persuaded by stories. We want to know why she is dedicated to help mothers and children around the world. We want to know how she has gotten directly involved in the individual lives of powerless people and actually helped them. This is why Oprah, Ellen, and Mother Teresa are so widely admired.
SECOND, we also want our women leaders to be clear advocates for the success of others. We want to know that Hillary is not out for herself but is out for all of us. This is what Elizabeth Warren is masterful at. To ensure her victory, Hillary will need to help us understand that she is running for president for our sake and not hers.
Hillary's problem on this topic is so deep that even as I write this I know that there will be people who might be angry with me for even wanting such an untrustworthy person to be president. To be sure, I don't know Hillary Clinton at all. But I do know people who do know her and they assure me that her problem is not her brain or her heart. Her problem is the emotional fortress she has built around herself to survive the challenges of her life. I don't believe a woman can successfully lead from inside a castle. A man can . . . women cannot.
The Bottom Line:
I am writing this for you. Hillary Clinton has her own advisers. What I want you to consider is how to wield the power of trust to have more influence and opportunity in your own organization.
1. Realize that mimicking men will not lead to leadership success. Women need to be both Athena and Hera-strong and warm.
2. Demonstrate that you are capable and committed by communicating personal success stories in which you used your strengths and creative persistence to achieve worthwhile goals.
3. Always state your goals and make your recommendations as a means to benefit your team or your company.
4. Speak up. Advocate for workplace fairness, leadership opportunity and women-empowering policies because the world needs half its leaders to be women if we are going to have a future we want our children to inherit.
5. Don't give up or give in . . . ever!
P.S. Most women feel unheard and undervalued in their workplace. Do you?
Multiple studies confirm that women leaders are instrumental in leading companies to greater profits, and now we know why. It's called the Women Effect, and it arises from a distinct gender strength called CORE intelligence combined with female thinking versatility. Attend my live event to learn these skills and master the new tools that will change your work-life and your future. Find out more and register
for the event October 26 & 27 in San Jose, CA.