I was recently in Atlanta attending the ASHRAE – Young Engineers leadership weekend, an event that always inspires me because I get to meet with the future leaders of some of the leading organizations in the U.S. and Canada. One of the topics we were discussing was the importance of developing a personal brand strategy early in one’s career. It is common knowledge to most that in this era of Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter, we are already “branded”. The question becomes “how is my brand perceived – positive, neutral or negative?”, and am I the one shaping it or is someone or something else doing it? To that end, many of the attendees were realizing that their brand, and career path by association, was being shaped by the way their manager viewed them or the culture and reputation of the firms they worked for had on their development. Several of the women in attendance were discussing their concerns about how their brand is viewed by the leaders of their firms and the “glass ceiling” that often limits their potential, growth and the ability to advance in a predominantly male controlled industry. I have reflected on this discussion and have some thoughts for all aspiring leaders but especially for women in the workplace.
Research reveals that by bringing what are referred to as feminine traits and attributes to the workplace and society, we will be more successful, more compassionate and understanding in the way we deal with people, handle conflict and make decisions. Authors of the The Athena Doctrine: How Women (and the Men Who Think Like Them) Will Rule the Future, John Gerzema and Michael D’Antonio, state that using skills such as nurturing, listening, collaborating and sharing, that women and men are solving complex problems, increasing profits, and redefining success the way we measure success in all areas of life. I recently heard Gerzema present the findings of his research at the Art of Marketing Conference in Vancouver. His presentation underscored the need for a new form of engagement between men and women to solve problems and deal with difficult issues. He was not saying that women if woman ran the world all things would be better. He was definitely saying that based on research conducted in 13 countries involving 64,000 people that the findings reveal with a balanced approach to leadership which draws on the strengths and attributes of women and men; we’d be doing much better in all areas of life.
Check out the YouTube summary to learn about the global research that reveals how these traits can have a powerful effect on organizations and relationships.
Within the context of applying these feminine principles to leadership within organizations, and in branding ourselves, being aware of and drawing on our male and female traits will make us more valuable, balanced and appealing personally and professionally. I believe we need the fresh perspective of young men and women in our organizations not only to remain relevant but more importantly to grow. There is nothing worse than a company getting stuck in the past and hanging on to old practices. The argument of “we’ve always done it that way” doesn’t stand up to scrutiny. It’s an excuse that people who are afraid to grow, or aren’t willing to bring in fresh perspective use to justify their position. It’s a zero sum game because there is no upside to that argument. The bottom line is – innovate or die a slow or perhaps quick death.