Updated: Jun 3, 2019
I had the pleasure of meeting Sana Remekie over a coffee recently to discuss democratization of AI and the evolution of digital transformations. Sana is one of the most accomplished young women entrepreneurs and leaders in the Toronto startup community. Our conversation touched upon what qualities make women leaders successful. We realized that we have faced a common challenge. As we assess, pivot and evolve our ideas quickly, our peers don't always view this as a positive quality. This is a common trend among young female leaders with whom I have interfaced. It seemed counter-intuitive, given that start-ups and big firms alike need to challenge and update their strategies frequently, then act with agility to remain competitive.
Transformations are faced with new information and changes that reveal themselves at various phases, requiring the team to pivot intermittently to successfully reach the end-goal. This requires a leader with an ability to influence and adjust the team's direction as a single entity, united towards a common destination. This is someone who holds multiple perspectives and a cross-functional experience. As Sana said,
"success requires the skill to go deep into the detail as needed, then take the overview and pivot again."
Yet, our business communities don't appear to fully leverage our women leaders' aptitude to quickly pivot at the vision-level. This conversation had me pondering, what is the reason behind so many women leaders experiencing the same challenge. Especially since they possess the expertise to articulate their vision along with the impact, to lead their teams successfully.
Constructive criticism during discussions can provide burstiness and supports further development of ideas as a team develops a rapport. However, focus on the person instead of the problem often discourages team members from speaking-up and dampens open interaction. Unfortunately, this focus on person is quite prevalent at most workplaces, generally fueled by a resistance to change. Men encounter this just as much as women, though their reaction typically differs from their women counterparts. Men tend to be more assertive in ensuring that their vision is understood. Sometimes that means actively inviting spirited discussions. In contrast, young women often find it challenging to continue communicating their viewpoint once they have met with resistance, without being judged negatively.
To prepare our daughters for effective leadership, I believe we need to encourage them to be more confident in articulating their 'half-baked ideas' from a young age. If we engage with them to develop their theories further, they will be more confident in their ability to communicate inspirational visions and exploring skills required to lead effectively later in life. Discouraging this learned helplessness among future women leaders will ensure they feel empowered when inviting healthy and productive debates. In return, this can help us identify and adjust biases we may currently hold.
For instance, I had the most invigorating discussion with a friend's eight-year-old daughter this Mother's Day weekend, about how our lives would change if we could relocate to Mars. It was an educational and imaginative experience for us both. We googled facts about Mars, the technology initiatives in-progress to get us there, as well as the future of work and healthcare. I heartily enjoyed the couple of hours we spent stringing together our respective 'Martian routines'. I continue to receive delightful messages from her with thoughts on what could address the gaps we left behind.
Imagine how much more success and progress the world will witness if we could harness the superpower these women leaders possess: to pivot, rinse, repeat… until their teams succeed!
How do you encourage your daughters to communicate their 'half-baked ideas'?
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