What I learned about Women Leadership.

by Gil Yehuda on January 12, 2012

in Enterprise 2.0,Personal Branding

I was invited to attend a “Breakthrough Leadership Lessons from Top Women Execs” session sponsored by my company’s HR leadership training department.  They invited men and women, though the target audience was for women. The way I saw it “Smart people giving out wisdom, and it’s free.” Sure I’ll be there! And I’m glad I attended.

Business woman The setup: Six women leaders in a panel with moderator. Four are CEOs of their companies, one is an SVP at a well known Fortune 100 Tech company, and the other a managing partner at one of the Big four accounting firms. The discussion ranged from the term executive presence as used to help coach women or to subtly turn them away from growth opportunities, to the proverbial work/life balance e.g. how to be a super-mom and woman executive. Funny note: One of the panelists suggested that life would have been easier had she been gay and had a female partner at home. One of the members of the audience commented back from personal experience that it’s still difficult to raise kids and have a full-time job, even with a her wife at home!

There were a few points made at the conference that I thought were worth sharing, and one observation I made on my own that I’ll include below.

  • Ask for what you want. One panelist shared that she was employee number 4 at a startup company that grew to be very large, went public, and then was acquired. She was the head of engineering and had a lot of stock and made a nice amount of money at the buy-out. But at the time she learned that the head of marketing had even more stock. So she approached the CEO and asked why that was the case. He said “When we started the company I offered you what I offered you. You took it and did not ask for more. I figured you were happy with the offer.” It did not occur to her that she could ask for more.
  • Spend your time deliberately. We all get 168 hours in a week. Whether you are the president of the country, the vice president of a bank, or the person who fills the ATM with a stack of bills every morning, we all have the same 168 hours. We choose how to spend it. We spend it on our work, friends, kids, surfing the web, drooling on the pillow, or watching TV shows. But 168 is it. Successful people don’t get more time than the rest of us, they simply use it carefully. And some of us choose to be more successful outside of work than at work. But we must all own our choices.
  • Find a mentor and be a mentor. We don’t magically become great. We learn from others and teach others. Nearly every great speaker you ever heard was professionally coached. Most great leaders were coached. Get coached. And be a coach if you can. It is very rewarding. It helps you and others. They were especially keen to note that teenage girls should be provided access to women leaders in technology and engineering areas. It will make or break the future.

The session was fascinating and informative. I’m grateful that Yahoo! Inc, (the company I work for) invested the time to provide this 90-minute conversation to some of the developing leaders in the company and had opened it up to men and women.

At the very end of the session I realized something else that I think is worth sharing too: I’ve always preferred to work for women managers. I’ve had managers who were good, some who were bad, some were male, some female.   But looking back at the many managers I have had over the years I think that women were better than the men. And I wondered why I felt that way. Was it something about me, a psycho-sexual Freudian thing? A random pattern of very good female managers? Am I alone in this bias or do others feel the same way? And it occurred to me that those women who are great leaders are because they earned it and fought for it. They were mentored and groomed; they proved their worth. Whereas with the male leaders, this was true some of the time, but not all of the time. Thus as a whole, the women on the top of the organizational hierarchy are people you should want to work for. They are probably great leaders. I’m not suggesting that women categorically make better leaders per se. But that women who are successful leaders have probably earned it by overcoming the forces that might have been in their way.

So what do you think about this?

{ 22 comments… read them below or add one }

1 JT Smith June 13, 2013 at 10:18 pm

Nice review and thoughtful insight. Glad I ran across the article in my research for an MBA paper.

Reply

2 MoxieExchange January 27, 2012 at 2:00 pm

What lessons in #leadership do you need you share? #PassItOn http://t.co/C3ndXmR9

Reply

3 Tatiana January 24, 2012 at 4:50 pm

With regards to your last paragraph, but without question I prefer male managers. I’ve had some very difficult male managers, but never felt bullied by one. I’ve felt bullied by several of my female managers, although when they are good, they tend to be very very good.

Reply

4 Gil Yehuda January 24, 2012 at 10:58 pm

Women don’t have a monopoly on good management skills. There are plenty of horrible managers out there, and about half of them are women. Moreover, there are some who study all sorts of implicit gender issues that result from various group dynamics (the alpha male, competition against people who are threatening due to age, attraction, or some other imbalance in the team, etc.)

I once participated in a demonstration of this run by a consulting company and was really taken aback at how men and women work together but so differently based on a variety of subtle factors — e.g. a team with one female, a team of females with a male leader, a team that was 50/50, etc.). As much as we might think we are “past all that”, gender inequality is a factor in the workforce. It will probably always be a factor somewhere, somehow.

I also think it makes a difference how high up the chain we are talking about. My realization at this presentation was watching 6 women who were CEOs of their company and their remarkable poise and personal presence. I meet a lot of CEOs, and some are more impressive than others. But these 6 women demonstrated to me that when women get to the top — it is usually a result of fighting hard for it. Sure there are fantastic male leaders, and there are plenty of rotten female managers too. But when women are at the highest echelons, perhaps they showed enough people that they really earned it.

Reply

5 Sahana Chattopadhyay January 19, 2012 at 7:21 am

What I learned about Women Leadership. | Being Open With You. – http://t.co/Gxta2ASv via @gyehuda #leadership #personal_development

Reply

6 HeathCliff January 18, 2012 at 6:01 pm

Thoughtful, insightful perspective. I also appreciated the provocative, and at the same time, obvious notion of needing to ask, rather than being more passive, re the stock option. And the “We all get 168 hours in a week” reference. Very well done, Gil.

Reply

7 Massimo Carli January 17, 2012 at 7:14 pm

Interesting Blog on LEadership and Women – What I learned about Women Leadership. | Being Open With You. – http://t.co/MYLOD6V7 via @gyehuda

Reply

8 Jennifer Duff January 17, 2012 at 6:04 pm

RT @gyehuda: What I learned about Women Leadership. http://t.co/PVeWTllp
fantastic insights esp on spending time deliberately

Reply

9 Charlie Isaacs January 17, 2012 at 5:55 pm

gr8! RT @gyehuda: What I learned about Women Leadership. – I was invited to attend a "Breakthrough Leadership Lessons http://t.co/4RDBDu5k

Reply

10 BlakeLandau January 17, 2012 at 5:54 pm

gr8! RT @gyehuda: What I learned about Women Leadership. – I was invited to attend a "Breakthrough Leadership Lessons http://t.co/4RDBDu5k

Reply

11 Natasja Hallema January 16, 2012 at 8:49 pm

Interesting article: What I [a man] learned about #Leadership from #women http://t.co/BCtmo2pl #diversity @womeninc @lofonline

Reply

12 alex s. kelly January 14, 2012 at 5:38 pm

Agree! : "Most great #leaders were #coached. Get coached." | http://t.co/w8bzyiQ6 No one becomes great by way of magic. RT @bizshrink

Reply

13 lizadonnelly January 14, 2012 at 5:10 pm

<- Self serving -> "Most great leaders were coached. Get coached." http://t.co/LRzKbROu No one becomes great by way of magic.

Reply

14 Anne January 14, 2012 at 5:06 pm

Yahoo for Yahoo and You hoo too. You provide a rational explanation for why women who do make it to the top are among the best of the best. When you keep skimming the top from only 50% of the population, (the male half) you eventually strip away the cream and get to the average and slightly above average layers. The cream of the crop of women remains largely untapped. So, let’s start tap, tap, tapping.

It may also be true that when it’s harder to get to the top, those with the most aptitude for and willingness to make the climb, will get there. Tap, tap, tap.

Reply

15 Catherine Jenkins January 14, 2012 at 5:04 pm

<- Self serving -> "Most great leaders were coached. Get coached." http://t.co/LRzKbROu No one becomes great by way of magic.

Reply

16 Anne Perschel January 14, 2012 at 4:54 pm

<- Self serving -> "Most great leaders were coached. Get coached." http://t.co/LRzKbROu No one becomes great by way of magic.

Reply

17 Gil Yehuda January 13, 2012 at 12:33 am

Blog post #e20 What I learned about Women Leadership. – I was invited to attend a "Breakthrough Leadership Lessons f… http://t.co/iOteoVms

Reply

18 Paul Zagaeski January 13, 2012 at 12:15 am

I’ve had a similar career experience. I prefer to work for women, although my reason has to do with expectations and communication style. Expectations established by women tend to include “soft” elements like work/life balance and collaboration. Communication style means, basically, the ability to listen without judgment. Very valuable.

Reply

19 Gil Yehuda January 12, 2012 at 9:52 pm

Do women make better leaders? What I learned: yes, in a way. Read more: http://t.co/hwU24peW

Reply

20 Enterprise20 Eqentia January 12, 2012 at 5:21 pm

What I learned about Women Leadership. http://t.co/DdYqbt5i

Reply

21 Wissensauslese January 12, 2012 at 5:15 pm

#gilyehuda What I learned about Women Leadership. http://t.co/6Mn0jMox #e20

Reply

22 Gil Yehuda January 12, 2012 at 5:15 pm

Pls RT What I learned about Women #Leadership.: I was invited to attend a “Breakthrough… http://t.co/FJPG8xwA

Reply

Leave a Comment

You can use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>

Previous post:

Next post: