The Data Behind Why Women Have What It Takes
Updated: May 14
| The DNA of Leadership |
It seems women in business make news traction when they are elected, promoted to CEO, or placed as Chair of Boards. I want to see more consistent spotlights on women in business in the future. So how do we do that? Ensure their success.
We need to make certain that women leaders have every opportunity to seize their dream through academics, credentialing, experience, and mentoring.
Pundits might argue that they already have these advantages made available to them. And if that is the case, why aren’t the statistics for women in leadership and on boards changing more quickly?
In celebration of International Women’s Day, I decided to take a data backed approach on the current state of women leaders personalities. Using Pivotal Coaching’s proprietary diagnostic tool, I sought the participation of aspiring women in leadership between the ages of 25 and 35. From the survey, we gleaned data and insights on leader mindset and leader genetics.
I asked Knorket, the platform that hosts my diagnostic tool, to sponsor the project. Knorket is an AI platform that enables real-time experiential insight needs through a marketplace-first ecosystem. Knorket aims to completely transform the human experience as customers or employees by making sense of data. Their SaaS product helps companies know employees, customers and their business through machine, method and mind. With my diagnostic methodology and Knorket, we were able to get inside the minds of our future female leaders.
I thought a diagnostic survey tool could bring to light the current state and would expose the lower self-confidence in female leaders. That prediction came from the “confidence wobbles” I am seeing in some experienced leaders. I decided to cast the net wider and focus on aspiring females. We set out to find out some pertinent intelligence to help me answer a question that is forefront in my mind.
We produced insights that provided insights into what felt like a front row seat in the minds of our future female leaders. Their willingness to respond and engagement was telling.
Leadership Confidence Diagnostic Scores
Using the Knorket’s Experience Orchestration (ExO) platform, a 42-question set were, a subset of questions from the leadership effectiveness diagnostics, gathered from 83 respondents. A 5-point Likert for questions covered attitudinal and behavioural indicators around “Mindset for Success” and the 4 pillars of “Leader Genetics”
(Control, Self-Confidence, Competitiveness and Decision-Making Indicators).
Mindset for Success
The strongest result was an extraordinary confidence in their “Mindset for Success (81%).” Based on the year we’ve had this show they have optimism. There is strong evidence on their attitude toward learning. The key dimension to this growth driver was their caring for Success of Others (87%) dimension.
Qualities shown by the majority of respondents were highly ranked in questions on willingness to step in to make something happen(82%), facing mistakes and learning from them(90%), having and being able to use decision making skills(80%). These are indicators on leader persona facets for control and competitiveness.
Barriers to Lead
Evidence of women leaders being self-critical was found. The most telling indicator was “I do not criticize or second guess most things I do (49%)”. The presence of a self-critic holds back self-confidence. The persistence of a self-critic will erode one’s leadership capacity. Starting with taming with self-critic is the priority to focus on.
Self-confidence (70%) is a foundational dimension to leader genetics. It will be held back when the self-critic is highly engaged. This dimension is interconnected to the self-critic.
Leaders face many obstacles while executing their work. Facing obstacles and persisting through failure is an area of development for women leaders. This is the lowest rated dimension in Mindset for Success. The finding that brings this focus to light is “I do not believe in perfection (67%).” Leadership mastery is realized with practice, which often means being imperfect. The opportunity is to face obstacles with the lens of failure as learning.
If you are interested in the 10 sub-dimension confidence scores details, contact me.
As an executive coach, I am heavily focused on action plans and results. This is my advice on the action plan for 25–35-year-old women leaders:
4 STEP ACTION PLAN
Manage your self-critic: Get to know your self-critic, when it shows up, and how to tame it.
Accept some imperfection: Ask yourself two questions: “What is good enough?” and “What is the worst that can happen?” Move from thinking to action as soon as you can.
Embrace the obstacles ahead: This is a 40+ year career plan. Be disciplined. Be persistent.
Step boldly into your leadership: Dream. Risk. Act.
There is further support to offer our future leaders. Here is where we all are involved.
Influencing the Future
The critical question to answer: How do you step into your leadership capacity?
When I asked Venkat Chandra, Founder of Knorket, about leadership he used his start up experience as a parallel “As a visionary you have to think 5 -10 years down the line. If you think about it, the product that exists today is nowhere where you want it to be. But to be an effective leader of the company, you have to believe in it with every cell of your being and believe that this is the best product.”
Why I think Chandra’s words are so important and relevant to this study I’ve done for International Women’s Day is because each of us are a “company” and each of us is a “product.” If we draw on Tom Peter’s timeless quote, “We are CEOs of our own companies: Me Inc. To be in business today, our most important job is to be head marketer for the brand called You.”
What we learned from the study is the existence of an undercurrent of second guessing and a negative self-perception. To reach our fullest potential, we need to leverage a strong foundation of ourselves and build upon soft skills. Ask for help, practice our craft and work from a position of self-confidence.
Chandra’s advice about leadership and your future is
Have the tenacity to go the distance, stay long enough in the game to get lucky.
Taming the Self-Critic to Fuel Self-Confidence
We talked to founder of Ambition Theory, Andrea Janzen, who is an executive coach to leaders all over the world. She says “The inner critic shows up when there is risk and a possibility of failure. If you are striving for leadership, you are out of our comfort zone because you are doing something you’ve never done before.
That inner critic tells us “Danger! Danger!” it’s the flight response, a biological response.” She is supportive in saying “It’s not that you aren’t self-confident.” And how to tame it? “You have to take action to do the thing that it’s telling you not to do. Taking action helps you build confidence.
It’s not about affirmations, it’s about action.
Helping Others Succeed
I asked myself “What woman inspired me or mentored me in my career?” I couldn’t easily recall a woman who was a mentor in my corporate career. My sponsors and mentors pre-entrepreneur days were men. I wonder how many others in my network may have the same reflection. I have a diverse network yet when it came to my corporate career, I didn’t create that essential diverse mentor network. We can offer a different opportunity to our future leaders.
70% of leadership development is realized on the job. It is not theoretical, it’s not something you learn in university. Rising within a company gives you hands-on learning experiences that are invaluable and are the path to promotion.
Leaders have a great desire to succeed, and some may think they have the DNA to achieve their success. The reality is, rarely does anyone in a leadership position stop learning or practicing. And you learn from your environment, you learn from others.
Chantal Brine is the founder and CEO of En Point, which helps organizations mobilize mentorship to support their students, employees and members to build and grow in their careers. On the difference between mentoring and sponsoring, she states, “the two can work really well together, it’s not one or the other.”
“70% of Fortune 500 companies use a mentorship program” says Julia Brine, Client Success and Communications Manager at En Point. She continues, “Mentorship is organic, there is professional and personal, many things are layered in. Versus a sponsorship relationship which is within an organization, a senior management level person might be sponsoring someone in a junior position.”
The opportunity for a protégé is magnified in the sponsorship relationship. Chantal Brine explains “It’s about paving the path for that person within that organization. It’s a very specific and defined relationship that has a clear objective of keeping that particular individual, in this case maybe a young female aspiring to grow in a particular organization. It is about keeping that young female in the organization, retaining her, developing her leadership capacity by making room at the table (so to speak).”
Andrea Janzen adds to this “The one thing you will need in order to advance is social capital. Who you know, who you are connected with, who is opening doors for you and who is singing your praises so that you actually can get to that next level because that’s where decisions are made. Decisions, particularly at the highest levels, aren’t based on performance reviews.”
I believe that if the advocacy or ambassadorship around a mentorship or sponsorship program is not being advocated from the top of the organization with plans, communication and action, it’s a major gap. This is a cultural change. It’s got to be given a high, and patient, endorsement for it to work.
Janzen’s forecast for the success of the future female business leader is “We actually have to change the system; we need to look at how organizations work if we really want to get women to the highest level.”
Almost every successful person will cite a mentor. Chantal Brine emphasizes
Ask for help. Getting out of our way is not something we can do alone. It’s too hard for our spouses, friends and family to do in a professional context. We need that person once removed.
And it is available to you, just look around, and look up, and you will find someone to help. When you have true leadership DNA, it is very easily recognized.
Our future leaders should:
➔ Invest in a career plan
➔ Ask for help
➔ Take action
➔ Be bold
I’m a woman in business, woman leader and woman entrepreneur. I experienced my own career obstacles, and none of those obstacles had anything to do with my intellect, my work ethic or my determination to rise in business and have impact. I want to be a part of making it an easier journey for others to realize their potential and aspirations.
There is more work to be done. Stay tuned. If you’d like to help me, send me a message.
For additional insights on the 4-step action plan, check out:
Growth: What If You Could Be Even Better
Confidence: The Game of Confidence
Lisa W. Haydon is the founder of Pivotal Growth Inc. She’s a leadership performance consultant known for her abilities to sort through business complexities, understand distinctive leader personalities and realize results.
Pivotal Growth provides growth-oriented companies with critical leadership data and action plans. Using technology-based methodology, they take the guesswork out of understanding the performance capacity of leaders and teams.