Dennis Howlett, an enterprise software expert, blogger at ZDNet and my favorite contrarian Brit, was kind enough to consider me worthy of inclusion in his recent post on 'Women and Leadership'. It was an interesting request of his - he wanted me to react to a recent McKinsey Quarterly piece titled Centered Leadership - and it got me thinking quite a bit. I read the Centered Leadership article but really didn't relate to the perspective. It identified five dimensions that make women in business successful:
- Managing Energy
- Positive Framing
This all sounded a bit like a visit to a zen spa with lots of therapeutic self-awareness sessions. I don't mean to completely pan it but who doesn't need to find meaning in their work? And who doesn't need to manage their energy levels? To me, it wasn't exactly helpful and so what I gave Dennis was my own list of top 10 things to remind yourself of as a women. However, like the other women Dennis interviewed I am not entirely comfortable making generalizations across gender lines. I do believe that there are more men with certain traits then women and vise versa but it's not a clear line.
After I submitted my list to Dennis I had a really interesting conversation with my brother about this - he is a executive at a large company in Germany and had an interesting European angle. His perspective was that highly successful people in the business world are those that take on more responsibility and accountability than suggested by their role and position and that people are promoted only after they exhibit the skills needed for the promotion. In short, highly successful people don't stay in their box or play by the explicit rules. He went on to say that women in Europe particularly had a difficult time stepping up and taking on more than what was explicitly expected of them.
This was an a-ha moment for me. I was completely incorrigible as a kid and my parents often came down hard on me for not being polite enough....not so dissimilar to the way many other parents deal with their girls. For me, it didn't really take..but I suspect most women were better behaved than I was as a child. I always had too many ideas and got too excited about things to really be very polite. As an adult I hope I've become an acceptably polite individual...but I still get an idea and run with it. And maybe that is the real take away for women who want to succeed. Do more than is asked of you. Take on projects you are not really responsible for. Figure out how to get projects done regardless of how the explicit process should work. Ask for forgiveness instead of asking for permission. And don't feel bad about it.
So...back to the bumper sticker: Good Girls Don't Make History