The new book, Lean In, by Sheryl Sandberg, the COO of Facebook, has generated a lot of heated discussion in the media and corporations about the hugely important issue of gender equality, which does not get enough attention even today.
In the book, Sandberg writes about how similar behavior by men and women results in very different outcomes in how they are liked and succeed:
When a woman excels at her job, both men and women will comment that she is accomplishing a lot but is “not as well liked by her peers.” She is probably also “too aggressive,” “not a team player,” “a bit political”; she “can’t be trusted” or is “difficult.” Those are all things that have been said about me and almost every senior woman I know.
Several of my clients are working on developing strategies for dealing with this challenge in their current roles. One critical success factor that they address is being authentic in how they approach it. That is, they do so in a way that is true to who they are, reflecting their core values and key strengths.
For example, one client was thinking that she needed to become “rough and tough” to hold her own with the five men on her peer leadership team. The issue was she was not by nature a rough and tough kind of person. She was in fact caring and committed to realizing he best in people, and was a great listener and synthesizer of information.
Her strategy focused on engaging her peers in exploring multiple angles of the complex problems they needed to address. With her quiet demeanor and insightful probing questions, she was very effective at drawing this high-energy and sometimes contentious group into constructive and collaborative conversations.
Over the first several weeks of applying this strategy, her peers came to rely upon her to lead them in problem solving. She quickly earned their respect and trust as a key enabler of their team’s effectiveness as leaders. She was in effect leading this leadership team.
If you want more practices on how to be an authentic leader, listen to the CIO talkradio event “Are you an authentic leader?”