As usual, we are lamenting the lack of women in leadership in Davos.
Leaders with traditional C-suite platforms, bloggers, speechmakers, and book writers all have views, so many of which center around the STYLE of women vs men. Most prominently, Sheryl Sandberg is telling us to “Lean In” to power in her forthcoming book:
“We hold ourselves back in ways both big and small, by lacking self-confidence, by not raising our hands, and by pulling back when we should be leaning in. We internalize the negative messages we get throughout our lives, the messages that say it’s wrong to be outspoken, aggressive, more powerful than men. We lower our own expectations of what we can achieve. We continue to do the majority of the housework and child care. We compromise our career goals to make room for partners and children who may not even exist yet.”
Sure, some people need style coaching, but confidence is not the primary reason many talented women (and men) opt out of leadership. They do so because because they feel a strong, natural desire to ensure their children (who exist now) have the best possible start with present, loving parents. This reaction is only human. Corporate organizational constructs so often make it hard to spend enough time at home, mentally and physically.
I see the potential for a very different solution: Shared Leadership. “Job sharing” has been a solution for working parents/mothers for a while, but senior leaders are not often given this option. It’s viewed as risky, although 1+1=3 so much of the time in these situations with high performing people. Even at high levels, there are some wonderfully successful examples of innovative organizations led by Co-Presidents and co-CEO’s – Whole Foods, Riverside Private Equity, Nottingham Spirk….all of which happen to be led by men. Imagine what this model could solve for parents (especially women) during some of the most vibrant years of their professional lives, when children are growing up (and aging parents may need help too). With partnership at work and at home (i.e., someone who has your back), women (and men) could honor both their humanity and their desire to make a difference in the world. Partnerships are not easy or automatic, but there is a lot to be gained by learning what makes successful shared leadership work.
If you are a parent, few people have taught you to empathize better or more than your children. If we can find ways to support talented people who “Lean In” to ALL THAT, we’ll be growing more empathetic leaders who help others grow and cultivate courage instead of fear.