There is a major shift that has been long awaited for in our offices. For decades, the norm has been Patriarchal or masculine-driven leadership: very competitive, hierarchical, conquering, sacrificial, consumed by the bottom line and individualistic. Of course, there are positives to this style but it’s clear, both on a personal level and statistically, that something was missing. A shift was necessary. An uprise emerged.
As humans, we are not just competitive, goal-oriented, or individualistic by nature. We are multi-faceted and as our work forces have grown more and more diverse, the more acknowledgement of our complexity and wholeness is now needed professionally for us to ‘work’.
What company leaders are mistaken about diversity is that it’s not just about hiring all types of people. It’s about supporting the differences in all types of people to achieve success – that’s how a company succeeds. It’s about seeing and celebrating differences. It’s about addressing and embracing our humanness at work.
Despite diversity initiatives, we’ve been missing the mark and it reflects in our dismal retention, productivity, and employee happiness rates at work for everyone:
- All companies lose 25% of employees in their first year.
- 51% of employees are considering a new job.
- 61% of employees are burned out on the job
- 45% of employees will face discrimination at work this year
We have work to do! We are still missing something and I don’t think I’m alone in my claim that it starts at the top. The root cause of disconnect, discontent, and lack of performance is not in rules and regulations from HR – weak leadership and flawed corporate culture is rooted at the top – not the HR office.
It’s time to not only embrace diversity but actively take responsibility to create gender intelligent conscious leadership practices at the top, within the CEOs and within his/her Executive team. It’s the leaders who need to ignite the change by being the change.
What do I mean by gender intelligent conscious leadership?
Leadership that is inspiring, empowering, accountable, congruent to defined core values and warrants the wellbeing and success of everyone within an organization.
Here are seven strategies that conscious company cultures rely on to create an environment that empowers everyone so the practices supporting diversity propels the company forward:
An inclusion mindset:
Inclusion is less of an act and more of a mindset. We see companies making initiatives to “include” all the time but if the culture within the company is not actively practicing inclusion, diversity won’t thrive. An inclusive mindset begins with leadership. Leadership has a responsibility to make it clear that everyone has access to the same resources, opportunities, mentorships, relationships, and aspirations within the company. As it stands now, many leadership styles and company cultures exclude the feminine – meaning they are rooted in masculine energy biases only. Only if you are competitive, cut-throat, and linear do you “fit” on course to move up the ladder. More inclusive leadership styles will recognize, support, and reward feminine attributes such as collaboration, relationship building, and emotional intelligence.
Collaboration in decision making:
Being actively involved in decision making is a huge motivation for employee engagement and retention. We like to feel connected to what we are working towards – that’s the nature of purpose. The majority of women in the workforce feel they are excluded from the decision making process and unable to express their opinions (more than 60%). 70% of men felt included. Clearly, there is a disconnect in who feels invited to the table. Only the top can inspire change in these cultural nuances that cause a shift in attitudes and practices within a company. It’s important that leadership not only show representation but encourage collaboration and foster honest conversation in a way that demonstrates transparence, integrity and trustworthiness for a collaborative culture.
Specificity: the differences through ethnicity/race, gender, religious, etc. celebrating and understanding the differences, education about the differences
Diversity doesn’t mean just accepting differences – it must undertake specificity. Specificity is acknowledging and celebrating the differences in ethnicity, race, gender, religion, language, etc. and including education about differences so they are understood and not feared. This is very unequivocal. When people do not understand, they fear. When they fear, they create bias and judgement towards what they fear. This is a huge cause of conflict and discrimination in the workplace, and in life, that can be eliminated with training and appreciation of differences. Uniqueness must be valued – it is of value for a business. Leaders have a commitment to make all of this intersectionality recognized and celebrated, despite how large a company is. It requires listening, empathy, and giving power to differences by rendering them to be strengths, not weaknesses.
Flexibility: requires trust
We now have companies operating within a horizontal management system, no longer vertically driven by a top down, authoritative & hierarchical fabric. Employees need structure and also the freedom to use their talents while taking ownership of their work. This is fundamental to fulfillment. Flexibility means trust from leadership in employees ability and integrity. It’s the antithesis to micro management. It is power with vs power over which always leaves employees to feel suffocated and unfulfilled. Accountability and responsibility is a huge part of empowering employees. However, flexibility requires radically open, honest communication from leadership and throughout management. Being a flexible leader requires pulling from some feminine attributes within – listening, collaboration, and leading through yielding. Flexible leaders should be able to adapt like a chameleon to energy, circumstances, and surroundings and respond without force so that employees share in the power. This is power for all.
This is the human side of business employees are expecting from companies that we haven’t before. We spend more than 8 hours a day at work. That’s ⅓ of our time. Wellness has to be included in the conversation and responsibility of management or employee burnout will inevitably happen. Leaders must practice presence and commit to listening to staff’s wellbeing concerns and requests. Beautiful workspaces that are comfortable with access to natural environment have been found to help employees perform better because they simply feel better within their work environment. Also addressing whole health including food and access to what they need physically for wellness like programs, gyms, meditation room etc. We are no longer ignoring that humans need to recalibrate to perform their best and nor should leadership. We must keep self care in the narrative from the top.
This is a bit of a buzzword but a powerful one. Humble leadership is about congruence and integrity from the top – something we’ve been missing. It’s about radical honesty and empathy from leadership – not facades of arrogance and war-like dispositions that used to be the expected norm . 96% of employees feel that showing empathy would help increase employee retention yet only 50% of employees say their CEO is empathetic. Empathy, transparent communication, and vulnerability help foster trust and stronger, better connections at work and that behaviour has to begin from leadership. It’s something watched and emulated, not learned in an HR manual. More than that, it is something felt. People remember how you make them feel, not what you say. This is one of the areas of leadership’s influence that is most powerful. It’s also about evoking bravery in standing and speaking in times of uncomfortability. Brave leaders are never silent around injustice or when change is needed. Brene Brown says “bravery is choosing courage over comfort”. It’s about addressing the pink elephants in the room, the problems, the changes necessary, and not skirting around issues. Humble leadership is able to embrace uncomfortable communication with grace and dignity.
Coaching used to have mostly an unfavourable connotation to it – as if needing a coach meant a leader was incapable or in need of reform. Now, the opposite is true. Coaching has become a norm and an expectation for CEOs. The job has become personal and empathy and relatability are a “status symbol” for CEOs. We all need someone who is rooting for us, a sounding board, and offer a well of wisdom – especially at the top. The top is lonely and isolating. Having a third party who is not personally invested and can truly align leaders towards integrating their being with their doing (aligning who they are with their professional purpose) is instrumental for company health, wealth and performance. Todays uprise emerging is about authentic, conscious leadership where people are no longer afraid to speak their truth and to merge that truth within their professional environment. For breaking through our walls and our own mental blocks, for moving beyond all conditioning that does not belong to who we want to become, coaching is extraordinarily powerful for leaders committed to be part of an ever changing inner and outer world.
It’s time to shift individually and collectively for processes that lead to results that benefit us all. Are you and your team ready to shift?