Women In Leadership Is Not A Zero-Sum Game


When it comes to discussions on the state of today’s leadership, one topic that understandably comes up is the issue of women in leadership. Specifically, why there continues to be so few women holding senior-level leadership positions in both the private and public sectors.

It’s an issue that’s been weighing on mind over the past few months in light of the growing number of stories of women encountering sexual harassment and outright misogynistic attitudes on university campuses, as well as in many growing, high-demand sectors like the gaming industry and software engineering.

In light of such stories, the issue of women in leadership is no longer just about the efficacy of implementing quotas to address the current gender imbalance, or whether women need to do more to get ahead in predominantly-male work environments. Indeed, when it comes to discussions on gender or visible minorities in leadership, we can no longer relegate it as simply being a “women’s issue” or a minority group’s problem to address.

Rather, we need to recognize that this is an all-hands-on-deck societal issue and a leadership issue.

After all, how else can we ensure that we’re bringing out the best in those we lead if we’re intentionally leaving so much of that potential behind? [Twitter-logo-smallShare on TwitterHow can we truly tap into the collective talents, creativity, and insights of those around us if we continue to allow conditions to persist that hold so many back from bringing their full selves to work?

We have to remember that our job as leaders is to listen to others – especially to those who are different from us – so we can gain a better understanding not only of the realities within our organization or community, but of how their experiences differ from what we encounter, and what we can do about it.

That’s why when I read about Chelsea Berler’s story, of how she overcame the personal challenges of poverty and several family tragedies so she could succeed in life as the founder and CEO of her own firm, I was intrigued to learn more about her story and the lessons she’s learned along the way.

That’s why I asked Chelsea to share her own leadership experiences to help all of us better understand what it is that women bring to leadership roles – what are their perspectives on how to address particular issues, and how those insights can help our organizations to become more responsive and agile in today’s faster-paced, global environment.

In reading Chelsea’s piece, we need to recognize that putting into action measures to increase diversity in today’s organizations – an issue Intel has recently committed themselves to resolving by creating a $300 million fund to increase workplace diversity – is not a zero-sum game.

This isn’t about women winning at the expense of men, or minorities winning at the expense of the majority. Rather, it’s about creating an environment where everyone – men, women, visible minorities, and so on – are able to bring their very best to the work they do; that we have people in leadership positions who truly understand what it means to lead, so that we can all collectively succeed and thrive.

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In Business, Women Rule

The following is a guest piece by Chelsea Berler.

I have a fairly distinctive vantage point to view women in business. First, I am a woman who is founder and CEO of my successful marketing agency. Second, nearly 75% of our employees are female. Third, almost all of our clients are women, as well. So, I have extensive experience working with smart, savvy and successful ladies who I genuinely respect.

Even in the face of rising misogyny in today’s male dominated world, the business women I have the privilege to work with are prospering.

Surrounded by so many accomplished women, I’ve noticed that they see and process things differently than men, which helps them excel in situations that men may not. In fact, this business sisterhood has learned to take advantage of the following 5 gender-specific talents and skills.

1. Nurturing nature

Women are naturally nurturing, ready to encourage, support and mentor others. This can build a super-loyal staff and customer base. It also means they are good at evaluating their own strengths…and know when to delegate or seek help when they aren’t so good at a task.

This encouraging temperament makes them great listeners and counselors, too. These advantages make women amazing at networking and collaborating. They really know how to use this skill to help build trust and increase business.

Okay, I admit that this nurturing sometimes makes women into control freaks or cause them to hover like helicopter parents. I’ve worked with my fair share, and I discovered that all they have to do is concentrate on letting go and allowing co-workers and employees to discover their own solutions.

2. Purposeful passion
My female counterparts have in common a profound sense of purpose and driving passion for what they do. They are emotionally attached to their work and want to do a great job every time. Most women enjoy order and stability and are hard-wired to make things better. These characteristics make them wonderful entrepreneurs.

Along with this sense of purpose, comes dedication. They aren’t afraid to get their hands dirty, work long hours or getting into the nitty-gritty details of a project.

Side note: I practice what I preach and am no prima-donna at work. I do what must be done, from making copies to posting my own blogs, as will any of the dedicated women I work with.

3. Visionary outlook

Women are not bogged down with B.S. They not only can see the forest through the trees; they can also see every tree, leaf, and even the nesting birds. It’s this attention to details that makes them visionary.

Women aren’t encumbered by good-old-boy networks and teamwork analogies from too many years in competitive sports. They focus on where they want to go, and they work on fulfilling that vision.

I call this point of view looking at the world through “goal-colored glasses.” Women have an innate talent for stretching their perspectives, cutting through layers, getting to the heart of a problem, and solving it. (By the way, that’s another reason they make such terrific entrepreneurs.)

4. Multi-tasking talents
In addition to handling their professional roles, women are adept in handling a number of other tasks, including family matters, childcare, shopping, feeding everyone, managing the household, and many more. From bandaging a skinned knee to putting dinner on the table to making the most of a budget, women have learned to efficiently and effectively multi-task. This ability carries over into their jobs.

You don’t have to take my word for it, though. Through my company’s time/project management software, I can plainly see how the woman I work with jump from one client, project and job to another, without skipping a beat.

5. Driven by opportunity
Women calmly deal with family emergencies, sometime on an hourly basis. They are able to face business crises with the same aplomb . . . confidently and self-assuredly.

When faced with a challenge, they see the opportunity in it. They learn what they can from the situation. Then, they form a solution that takes advantage of the opportunity. It’s this kind of grit that keeps them growing and prospering.

For example, when our psychologist client was unable to provide counseling services to her out-of-state or out-of-county clients because of legal issues, she did not sit back and accept the problem and loss of income. Instead she came up with an online coaching service. We helped her get her website started. The result: an additional business opportunity was born.

Thank you, thank you, thank you!
I am continually awed by women in my own life and the ones I read about every day. They inspire me and are mentors for other women.

I sincerely appreciate their unique perspectives and talents. All I can say to the women in my life is, “You rule!”

Chelsea Berler is the founder and CEO of Solamar Agency, a boutique marketing agency that supports businesses around the world. She’s has written for The Huffington Post, Inc. Magazine, and Women 2.0 and is the author of the book “The Curious One: From Food Stamps to CEO – One Woman’s Journey through Struggle, Tragedy, Success and Love”.

To learn more about Chelsea, visit her websites thecuriousbook.com and mostlychelsea.com. You can also follow her on Twitter – @ChelseaBerler.

© 2014 Chelsea Berler, author of “The Curious One: From Food Stamps to CEO — One Woman’s Journey through Struggle, Tragedy, Success and Love”.

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Tanveer Naseer is an award-winning and internationally-acclaimed leadership writer and keynote speaker. He is also the Principal and Founder of Tanveer Naseer Leadership, a leadership coaching firm that works with executives and managers to help them develop practical leadership and team-building competencies to guide organizational growth and development. Tanveer’s writings and insights on leadership and workplace interactions have been featured in a number of prominent media and organization publications, including Forbes, Fast Company, Inc Magazine, Canada’s national newspaper “The Globe and Mail”, The Economist Executive Education Navigator, and the Ritz-Carlton Leadership Center.

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