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More Women, More Inclusion, Better Leadership - Or Bust

Posted on May 13, 2013 at 6:55 AM

Thinking ahead clearly isn't a strong point of UK plc.

I say this as we are still talking, two years on, about the serious under-representation of women in business. It has taken us two years in the UK to work out that - oops, there's a problem with the pipeline - and it needs multiple measures to fix it.

I wonder how long it will take before tax breaks are considered in any serious capacity. How about one for maternity ? That would both send a strong message of support that having - and bringing up - children is a valuable service to society at large. And if handled correctly with reintegration into the workforce, it would also put an end to those wasted years of isolation - when many women want to and can do more, but become stuck in a role that seems to allow no way out, if done well. Isolation is a powerful kick-starter for a steady deterioration in confidence.

Then there's the ostrich-like approach to the serious lack of representation of minorities - in businesses which rub their hands with glee at the prospect of emerging markets. It's mad, it's blinkered, and it's uncompetitive.

So here's an interesting study to add to the debate. It finds that organisations are not adequately prepared for the cultural changes that will occur as executives from the baby boomer generation retire and are replaced by the young ones - those called Generation X and Y.


After the baby boomers: the next generation of leadership, by Odgers Berndtson, the headhunters (see I do mention headhunters in a positive light now and then) has, in conjunction with Cass Business School interviewed senior executives across a wide range of industries and geographies. And guess what it found?


"Corporate leaders will also need greater diverse cultural awareness due to the increasing economic importance of the BRIC and Next11 countries to many of the companies surveyed. Already, S&P 500 companies derive nearly half of their revenue from international sources and, for many, international revenues are growing faster than their core revenues." (my emphasis)


And "The ability to speak foreign languages, partly as a proxy for cultural awareness, will be increasingly important. 85% of respondents believe that being able to speak foreign languages will be more valuable to future executives than past ones."

Only 41% of respondents believed that their organisations are ready for changing workplace demographics of age, gender and diversity - and they may well be deluded. It happens.

The study makes the clever point  that companies should ease the transition to the next generation of leaders, by the current generation stepping back and focusing on mentoring up-and-coming executives. (But that might be a bit like asking directors on some UK-listed mining company boards to pay more attention to the one they're on rather than tout about for the next lucrative position....)

 “The retirement of the current generation of corporate leaders will lead to cultural changes that most organisations are unprepared for. In order to thrive in the post-baby boomer landscape, companies need to put serious thought and effort into smoothing the intergenerational transition for leaders from generations X and Y" says Richard Boggis-Rolfe, Odgers chairman.

Now here is the best bit.


"Although the retirement of baby boomers will lead to a loss of some skills from the workforce, the next generation of leaders will bring their own skillsets to bear on the marketplace.


Foremost among the new leadership skills will be i) emotional intelligence, ii) people skills and iii) flexibility, which will be needed to attract and motivate a more diverse and mobile workforce. This more collaborative form of leadership will be key to helping executives navigate the 21st Century workforce." (my emphasis)

A "more collaborative sort of leadership" with emotional intelligence, eh ? Either I am suffering from tunnel vision - or we've just come back to the importance of more women in the workforce.

Well done to Cass Business School and Odgers. This should have had more media coverage than it has - I plead guilty of overwork  and a failed attempt to find sun- but perhaps Twitter can help.

To watch a video of Richard Boggis-Rolfe, Chairman of Odgers Berndtson, and Professor Cliff Oswick, Deputy Dean of Cass Business School, discussing the findings of the report please click on this link.


Categories: Women, Appointments, Representation