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Thursday, October 14, 2010

Helping Women Climb the Corporate Ladder

Most company employees will be familiar with the colleague who talks a lot at meetings, frequently in the first person: 'I have done this' or 'I will do that'. More often than not, that colleague will be male.

"Men are typically better than women at impression management – or the art of managing one's reputation and image," says Halla Tomasdottir, an Icelandic businesswoman who founded Audur Capital, an investment company that survived the country's financial meltdown. "Women, or men, who say 'We did this deal' rather than 'I did this deal' often make better leaders – but the world of business and finance frequently values a more masculine approach – where you blow your horn more."

Mentoring – the process of guiding and supporting a less senior colleague – has come to be seen as central to helping more women break into male-dominated boardrooms. 


Chile's Heroes Have a Lesson for Rio and Co

If the stream of remarkable footage from Chile can teach Rio Ferdinand and his bungling England football comrades anything, it is in its ultimate expression of positive leadership and what it means to be a team.


Women and the Transition to Senior Management

Here is some advice from Positive Leadership on how women can best make the transition to senior management:

Anticipate transitions. At a certain point in your career, you will be expected to move beyond managing and will need to demonstrate leadership capability to move into the senior ranks. Instead of simply ensuring efficiency, planning and organising staff, you will need to create a vision for change and then inspire your team to bring it to fruition. These role shifts can be difficult to see. Watch out for them.

Development isn’t just about your skills. You won’t succeed in senior management if you rely solely on what got you this far. Two common hurdles for high-potential women include adopting a strategic perspective and managing stakeholders. Big-picture thinking and learning how to create influence through coalitions and networks are key to leadership success. Get on assignments that are key to the success of your company, as well as cross-functional projects that bring together diverse stakeholders from across the company.

Watch out for identity traps. Another common trap for women during the transition to senior management is that they fall victim to their natural leadership style. You’ll need to knock off the micromanaging, learn how to delegate and cultivate the ability to influence without authority.

Authenticity is also about your future self. It takes 15 seconds for a person to form an opinion about you. Think about how you want to be perceived and manage your image accordingly. Keep in mind that it is particularly difficult for women to be perceived as both competent and warm. Networking can also be a challenge for women, but growing your strategic network is essential. Cultivating mentors is also key to future success in senior management. 


Treating Customers and Employees Well

Most of the U.S. airline industry is under assault from skyrocketing fuel prices and a sluggish economy, but the message that Southwest Airlines president Colleen Barrett brought to the recent Wharton Leadership Conference was about the importance of treating employees and customers well. 

Innovative leaders such as Southwest chairman Herb Kelleher and smart management of non-human resources -- especially Southwest's fuel purchasing hedges that have saved the company more than $2 billion -- have certainly helped the airline post profits for 35 consecutive years. But the foundation for all that, she said, has been making the satisfaction of employees and customers the highest priority.