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by Becky Shambaugh

Having served as an executive for three Fortune 500 companies and running my own leadership development company for the past 20 years, I have never seen so many business leaders, across all business sectors and industries, work so hard to juggle so many challenges and opportunities. Shifting market conditions, higher customer expectations, ever-evolving workforce demographics, new business processes, constant advances in technology, and rapid social changes are causing many business leaders to rethink the kind of leadership that is needed to navigate the new terrain.

The truth is that we can no longer use the same thought and decision-making processes that we used just ten years ago…20th-century leadership models simply won’t work for 21st-century organizations and 21st-century problems. We need a different leadership model – one that is more balanced and integrated. Successful organizations of the future will be led by fully engaged, balanced teams of men and women working together. I call this Integrated Leadership.

The timing is right for a shift to this new approach to leadership. Women are beginning to be recognized as an instrumental component of the leadership equation. Studies show that organizations with more women in senior executive roles are more profitable, are more adept at attracting and retaining top talent and are better able to grow and maintain their competitive advantage. Some research indicates that the tipping point is only 30 percent – that is, when women represent just 30 percent of the senior leadership team of an organization, real change starts to happen. When women work side-by-side as equals with men, broader perspectives are heard, a wider range of skills are available, and more innovative thinking occurs. This, in turn, results in a more productive and invigorated work environment.

The skills and abilities that tend to come more naturally for women such as creativity, intuition, empathy, relationship intelligence, collaborative leadership, and a holistic view of the world are becoming more pertinent, and some would even say “crucial,” in the new business environment. In our existing society and culture, these strengths are the same qualities that have historically kept women out of higher levels of leadership – and yet they are the very qualities that our world and our organizations now need in order to create a better tomorrow.

Women make up the majority of candidates in the leadership pipeline. But rather than increasing, the percentage of women in executive leadership positions is holding steady and in some cases decreasing. For years I’ve heard “the talk” about the importance of diversity and inclusion in driving key business results. But I don’t see companies “walking the talk.” It’s time for organizations and their leaders to move from conversation to action:

  1. Women must look within, acknowledge their leadership attributes, and then confidently take a seat at the table. While a glass ceiling may still exist in some organizations, most women are stuck on a “sticky floor” of self-limiting assumptions, beliefs, and behaviors that prevent them from realizing their potential and moving to the next level of leadership. Organizations must fully prepare women in the pipeline and provide targeted leadership programs and coaching.
  2. Men still represent over 80 percent of the executive suite and corporate board of directors and therefore play an important part in helping women advance to higher-level leadership roles. These men are in the best position to advocate for women, and we need to tap into their insights, coaching, and mentoring, as well as their goodwill.
  3. Organizations must address the number of women who are dropping out of, or not signing up for, the senior ranks of leadership. Effective leadership development programs can reinforce a gender-neutral work environment, tackle traditional biases and assumptions, and help men and women acknowledge and maximize each other’s leadership strengths.

Now is the time to foster an Integrated Leadership culture – one that values, leverages, and blends the differences and attributes of both women and men. Without the unique perspectives and style of both, it will be very difficult for organizations to achieve success in the future.

What specific action can you take in your organization to encourage Integrated Leadership? Leave a comment below.

Visit www.shambaughleadership.com to learn more about SHAMBAUGH’s upcoming Women’s Professional Services Program in Washington, DC this Fall as well as our leadership and organizational development, employee engagement, and coaching services.

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