Lotus Leadership Institute Blog

A Women and Leadership Tension

With March being women’s history month, we always get an influx of “alerts” on issues of women’s leadership. The verdict is still mixed: some stories claim how far women have come and others cite the low numbers and lack of representation of women in the higher positions within the public sector.

At Lotus Leadership, we certainly feel this tension, organizationally and individually. Most women I speak to recognize the need for women’s leadership development and believe the environment is enhanced with the training is women-specific, however many executives or those in charge of employee development and learning feel like the glass ceiling is a thing of the past and that the women need to roll up their sleeves and get in there with the guys and work their way through (and up) the company positions.

So which is it? Do women still need their own leadership development or should we all just accept the progress that has been made and attempt a genderless approach to leadership development?

The answer:  we need to do both.

Attempting to do only one or the other is what causes the tension. Yes, women have their own unique experience with the workplace, their role in it, with power, with voice, and many other organizational issues—society is still very gendered and always will be—so women will benefit from training and development that focuses on women-specific issues.  However, women and men have to work together every day and the gender dynamic is something that affects leadership.  There are many “general” topics that will benefit women and men equally: leading effective teams, emotional intelligence, transforming culture, and many, many more.

The bottom line: women (and men, too), need to be proactive about their leadership development. Attend a women and leadership conference for inspiration, motivation and education. And then, make sure your company dedicates some resources to overall leadership development. A continued commitment to leadership development is the only way you will maximize your capacity to effectively lead.


Posted in Updates

Through The Labyrinth: A Better Reflection Of Women’s Experience.

Women’s experience in organizations and business has long been described as a glass ceiling-that invisible barrier to women’s advancement. Leadership scholars Alice Eagly and Linda Carli have suggested a different metaphor for understanding women and leadership: a labyrinth.

Women’s journey in their career is like a maze, marked with complexity and dynamic influences that impact that journey. The barriers that are holding women back are not as clear-cut as a “glass ceiling” would suggest. Certainly issues such as motherhood remain a challenge—the working mother certainly has many things to juggle—however there are many other issues that create a challenging labyrinth: structural obstacles within the companies where women work, a double-bind that persists for women trying to find the best leadership style to use when getting ahead, and the challenge of developing social capital, just to name a few.

Women’s journey through this labyrinth is a difficult one and is aided by a strong support network, a wiling mentor, and continued personal development. Think about your own journey—how have you navigated your labyrinth? What obstacles do you believe continue to impede your path? And what steps are you taking to find your way through? Having a good sense of the road you are traveling on is an important aspect to a successful journey.

For more on this topic read Through The Labyrinth: The truth about women and leadership by Eagly and Carli.


Posted in Updates

Being “Fit To Lead”

I’m training to get back in shape after the birth of my fourth child. Along with several friends and family members, we are trying to eat healthy and work out hard. But achieving optimum fitness and health takes time, commitment and consistency, and can be quite difficult with a busy schedule of work and family. There is no miracle pill or quick-fix diet that will do the trick—yet many people will try the latest fads hoping for an easy solution. Getting a better body and improving your fitness level requires energy and attention. The same is true with being a better leader and improving your ability to exercise leadership.

That’s why the term exercise leadership is so appropriate—Leadership is an exercise that takes practice and training. And just like the exercise that we do to keep fit and healthy—to really increase your leadership ability, you have to be committed and consistent. This doesn’t mean that you have to register for expensive workshops and conferences all the time; you can have a program that includes reading, journaling, and reflecting on situations. You can have a community of colleagues where you talk about specific cases, experiences, or decisions, and actively attempt to continue your leadership program, just as you would to your workout program.

When is the last time you’ve dedicated time to making your self a better leader? How long as it been since you have set personal and professional goals and established an action plan to make those goals your reality? My guess is that it’s been too long. It’s time to being your work plan to improve your ability to exercise leadership!

So, get up off that couch and get going! Make yourself FIT TO LEAD!


Posted in Updates

Leadership vs Authority—Why Such Confusion?

It is always interesting for me to hear how everyone talks about the authority role as the “leader”; referring to the  CEO as the “leader” of the company, or the Governor as the “leader” of the state. In essence, we really don’t know if that person is doing any kind of leadership at all. What he or she has is power—the power of an assigned role within the organization: that is authority. Leadership is something different, something more, I would say. Leadership is mobilizing people to change, to ask the tough questions and seek out the answers that are not easily available.

There are certainly CEO’s, governors, presidents, directors, who are also great leaders, but there are many who are not. And, these people are exercising leadership all of time. The best formal authorities know when leadership is necessary. They can recognize when their organization is facing an adaptive challenge—a tough problem that requires leadership—and then they have the skills and strategies to get the group through it.

I like to use the metaphor of a runner to better understand leaders.  Someone is a runner who runs frequently for fitness and health benefits, maybe completes a few marathons, and consistently runs. However, that runner is not running 24/7. She runs certain times and with a purpose: to get a workout in, to compete in a race. Leaders are like runner. They are not leading all the time, but they recognize when the situation needs leadership and they lead with a purpose.

At LLI, we teach our clients to recognize the difference between leadership and authority in order to be better at both. How well do you understand your role of authority? How capable are you at leading people when leadership is necessary? The distinction between leadership and authority is a critical one, especially in times of conflict, turbulence, and tension. And while a role of authority does not guarantee a person will exercise leadership, those roles certainly provide the opportunity to do so. Both leadership and authority are critical components to organizations—develop and understand both to be the most effective.


Posted in Updates