Quite a few years ago, as an executive in a predominately male environment I coached a number of women in the company where I worked. As I worked with these exceedingly talented and competent women, I began to notice and pay attention to two things:
- While they were very competent women who received great performance reviews, they didn’t have the matching confidence for their level of competence.
- Women were not getting promoted at the same rate as the men. When I did the math, I discovered that the number of women declined the further up the corporate ladder they went. The CEO was a man and there were no women VP and Senior VP levels.
Crashing into the glass ceiling
I began to realize that my own prospects for advancement as an Assistant VP were slim. And as I listened to the women’s stories, it started to sink in that they and I were working in a company culture that equated leadership with power-plays, one-upmanship, competitiveness and aggressiveness. Some would call this “the old boys club”. I knew I had reached the proverbial “glass ceiling”.
Even though the company prided itself in wanting to have more women in senior executive positions, the reality was that it was closed to accepting new forms of leadership practices like collaboration and cooperation. It was an extremely stressful time in my life as I felt super shaky at work, I was in debt and I was going through a messy marital break-up all at the same time.
Inspite of all this, I applied for a more senior executive position that had come open. When I expressed my interest in the senior VP position to the CEO, he told me that I lacked executive presence and that he would be interviewing external candidates only. I was crushed. In the end, the CEO did hire a female executive. However, she exemplified the competitive, aggressive nature of the leadership already in place.
Thankfully times are changing
At that point, I knew that my calling was now to coach more women to lead as women. The top-down, command and control approach– is no longer effective. Research shows that companies led by inclusive and diverse leadership teams make more effective decisions and deliver better financial results. This is why we now look for leadership characteristics like cooperation, collaboration, empathy, and support. We didn’t value these leadership characteristics in the past, but thankfully the rules of the game are changing, and we now know that these characteristics are vital to making our world a better place. I knew then that I wanted to be a part of this leadership revolution.
Fast forward a few months later and that is when Integral Leadership Design began as a germ of an idea while toasting in the New Year of 2009.