In the early 2000s leaders were found to be failing in five significant ways:
- Not being good listeners
- Not managing poor performance in the workplace
- Being resistant to change
- Not giving regular, constructive feedback
- Lack of willingness to adapt command and control leadership styles to more inclusive and collaborative leadership styles.
These were the findings of a study conducted by a global consulting firm, and our own research at AHAA!
Fast forward two decades to the current global COVID-19 pandemic and one may say that nothing has changed for the majority of leaders! My observation is that it appears to some degree to be generational as Anglo-Saxon Baby Boomer men continue to dominate key leadership positions around the world.
International Women’s Day has been celebrated on 8 March annually since 1911. While progress has been made, given that it has been over a century the pace of change has been glacial to say the least and frankly, myself and many other women are a bit “over it”! Yes, we are mad as hell, and the older we get, the more likely we are to speak up loudly and boldly because we’ve got nothing to lose!
There are many myths about women at work that are simply wrong. Ironically these myths exist across 10 different countries as diverse as Australia, China, France and the USA, and across four generations. I interviewed 91 women from 10 countries across four generations, Veterans, Baby Boomers, Generation X and Generation Y for my book Leadership Revelations III How We Achieve The Gender Tipping Point, and women’s experiences were exactly the same.
These are the most common myths about women which are just wrong:
- Women are not as ambitious and competitive as men
- Women are less committed at work once they have children
- Women are too emotional, and don’t like conflict
- Women want it all
- Women do not aspire to leadership roles
- Women with children don’t want senior leadership roles
- Women don’t care about the money
- There is a lack of qualified women for leadership roles
- Today’s workplaces are meritocracies where the best person gets the job!
- If women are given equality, men will be disadvantaged
Let’s look at the facts and statistics, so we can’t be accused of being overly sensitive, taking things personally or out of context, or even creating fake news!
With the COVID-19 pandemic we can be anything BUT close to you! It was however while watching the YouTube clip performed by the Couch Choir of the song Close To You, (originally performed by The Carpenters in 1970) that got me thinking about what we miss most as humans. The performance recorded earlierthis year brought both my husband and I to tears. It was sung by over 1,000 people from 18 countries around the globe, and was the brain wave of the founder of Pub Choirs and Choir Director, Astrid Jorgensen. These events have been joyous and fun, filled with music, laughter, camaraderie and community.
There’s the magic word – COMMUNITY!
I believe what everyone is missing due to self-isolation is exactly that – community, as humans we long to be close to each other. We miss the communities we belong to through work, sport, social clubs, pubs, family gatherings and social events with friends – weddings, birthday parties, anniversaries, christenings and even funerals to farewell loved ones with dignity.
So, what do we do? Many of us find ourselves in a “no man’s land”, and we are confused, frustrated, angry, sad, disbelieving and hoping this is a bad nightmare and we will wake up tomorrow and everything will be “back to normal.”
This past festive season has been surreal to say the least. The bush fire catastrophe across Australia has demonstrated the best of Australian culture and community spirit, and the best and worst of Australian leadership. Many of us feel sadness, disappointment, frustration and anger, yet we have hope and gratitude in our hearts too. We have witnessed so many acts of kindness by Australians and especially others around the world, at a community level.
It caused me to reflect on what I learnt from Michelle Obama, who I had the pleasure of listening to in Singapore in December 2019, and would like to share wih you. Michelle would be one of the most humble, funny, smart and compassionate people I have ever had the pleasure of listening to. Her words caused me to reflect on the past year and think about the year ahead.
The final question of the Evening with Michelle Obama was: “What do you think are the most important things in life, and what you’ve learnt, given your life’s journey to date?” She paused thoughtfully, and then said:
“Kindness, dignity and accountability.” “If there’s one thing I’ve learnt in life, it’s the power of using your voice. I tried as often as I could to speak the truth and shed light on the stories of people who are often brushed aside.”
I have always found it both perplexing and amusing that the people who have the most to say about feminism, misogyny, sexual harassment and gender discrimination are people who have NEVER experienced it – often men! And they tell you to: “Lighten up and get over it.” I am hugely in favour of experiential learning where you are introduced to the experience in a controlled environment and have an insight (not the real thing) into what it may feel like.
Any woman, I included, who supports women’s rights and calls herself a feminist is seen as some sort of “left wing, Femi-Nazi, lentil-eating, raving lunatic who hates men”. I have been called all these names online or in heated conversations, often again with men. These accusations could not be further from the truth. Firstly, I really like men and enjoy their company, I just do not like or converse with misogynistic men who disrespect women, and why should I? I am not sure what Femi-Nazi means, as no one who has called me that name has been able to explain it to me. I enjoy lentils and I don’t think eating them is a crime, a disgrace or in any way fascist behaviour and I’m not a raving lunatic, except perhaps when I watch sport that I am passionate about like AFL or Rugby.
I have returned from a month of rest, relaxation and reflection. Much of my reflection was about how we as human beings and leaders can be better, connect in more meaningful ways, enable ourselves and others to be the best we can be, and truly imagine what it means to walk a mile in another’s shoes. This reflection was brought about after months of observing poor leadership around the world. The lack of kindness, empathy and understanding for the plight of those less fortunate by key leaders worldwide, is both appalling and a call to action. Political, religious and business leaders on a growing scale are guilty of causing deliberate polarisation and division, all in the name of short-term transactional power.