A female General Counsel friend recently told me about the MBA she did to boost her leadership skills. She was advised to develop a leadership style where she had “no good days, no bad days”, to be the same every day and present a smooth and even face to her team and colleagues.
I profoundly disagree with this method of training and leadership. I remember the tyranny when I was a young lawyer of always having to be “professional”. The strong implicit message that I had to be the same every day, never admit to any vulnerability or heaven forbid show any emotions, instead to robotically churn out the work at a consistent rate day after day.
The Industrial Age has given us a mechanistic view of organisations and their workers – as machines consisting of components that can easily be replaced. Our flesh and blood nature is seen as a weakness rather than a strength. This also encourages a worldview that allows us to see “the environment” as separate from us and “out there”, with disastrous consequences.
It seems to me now a very out-dated approach. We must embrace our flesh and blood nature and see this as a source of power rather than weakness. Nature moves in cycles and everything has an ebb and a flow. When we respect these rhythms we can use our energy much more effectively. When we seek to constantly override them we ultimately pay the price for this in stress, lack of engagement and organisations that operate in ways that are detrimental to society and the planet.
For women leaders it is particularly important to respect the ebb and flow of our energy and refuse to see it as a sign of weakness. If you pay attention to how your energy fluctuates through the course of the month and give yourself permission to rest when you need to, you will be far more e a role model than someone who pretends to be the same day in, day out. Be real. Challenging the norm in this small way can have profound consequences on both yourself and those around you.
There are ways of doing this, of course, and emotional intelligence plays a huge part in ensuring your emotions are represented in the correct way in the workplace. There are always lines you do not cross. But MBA programmes take note – it is high time to leave the Industrial Age behind and help our leaders navigate this new age of transformation.
With thanks to Liz Rivers
Liz will be writing more for Learn Shed on Leadership for Women in the coming months.