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How do Identity and Cultural Difference Impact Leadership? By Maureen Metcalf

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How do Identity and Cultural Difference Impact Leadership? By Maureen Metcalf

This blog is a companion to an interview with Professor Mike Hardy on VoiceAmerica “Innovative Leaders Driving Thriving Organizations” on December 27, 2016 focusing on the importance of understanding how we address vulnerability and build trust when interacting with people who appear different.

Mike was an academic economist before changing course and working for the foreign service in the UK. He was interested in the Islamic world and the global issues facing us in that part of the world and our part of the world. He is now the Director of the Centre for Trust, Peace and Social Relations at Coventry University. It is the largest peace studies center in Europe with a focus on mobilizing scholarship and academic work to help policy makers understand the issues of vulnerability and the importance of trust in creating peace.
We began by discussing how the study of peace is a leadership issue. Leadership changes the world, and presently we are in a mess in part because the quality of our leaders is, in many cases, lacking. By helping leaders understand their own views and behaviors when facing diversity, we enhance our leadership capacity. When we eliminate segments of the population because they appear different, we remove valuable insights and perspectives.

The ILA is interested in mobilizing leaders at all levels, and it empowers everyone to be leaders who address the compelling challenges we face in our families, communities and organizations.  Mike is a true leader and role model in his field demonstrating leadership evolution and impact through his action. All of us, whether you consider yourself to be a leader, need to take stock of how we follow as well as how we lead.  

The power of leaders is limited by how worthy they are of following and by whether their followers follow. The best leaders create other leaders and give them the space to lead. The expectation of leaders and followers is also dependent on the culture and systems in organizations. We recognize, as an example, government organizations often differ vastly from academics therefore the expectations of leaders and followers is different.  

The twenty-first century is a relationship age and the inner-connectedness of everything. We discussed the forces of prejudice versus the forces of pluralism—Mike wants to promote living peacefully in complex diverse communities. If people are not comfortable living and working among diverse people, then leaders need to spend their time policing and setting rules and guidelines to keep us safe. The alternative is a scenario in which the group creates norms and finds ways to move through situations based on its agreements without the boss intervening. If we learn to be comfortable in the space difference creates, we discover opportunity for everyone and diversity becomes a true differentiator in solving the greatest problems. When we limit diversity, we limit perspectives and are at a disadvantage.

Now let’s shift from diversity to the crisis of migration and again how we manage the flood of people into Europe and the US who look and act differently than the prevailing culture. Millions of people are fleeing the conflict in Syria and other parts of the world in which appalling atrocities are taking place. The consequences of this flood of people who are different and without resources create a dilemma. How do countries deal with this when there is such a strong reaction of prejudice and fear? So, the real crisis is: How do countries and communities cope, finding a path forward to accommodate people yet maintaining social norms and function, when flooded with people who are different in significant ways? Are the refugees coming as migrants who are choosing to stay, or staying because they can’t go home? How do we as citizens and compassionate people deal with the drivers of the movement rather than the movement itself? The real driver of the threat is not the refugees, but the plight of refugees. How do we as a global community deal with this underlying problem?

Mike is researching identity. People present themselves in the way they want to be seen. His campaign asks: Can people move from a focus on who I am to how I behave? The literature suggests that identity creates problems for us. We see immigrants as different from those living in the communities they are joining. If we need to belong and if we need also to be different, how do we integrate these two drivers into peaceful relationships?
If my identity conflicts with your identity, does this mean we will be at odds because our groups are at odds? As humans, we see ourselves as a group of identities (soccer fans, Gen X, work focus, partner/family, nationality), how do we hold that complex set of identities? Our identities are like the many ingredients in a good stew; really tasty stew is comprised of many ingredients, including spices cooked over an extended time. In some cases, however, we behave as if people with different identities (or a few different ingredients in the stew) are wrong or distasteful. Because we focus on identity, we are conditioned to look at the barriers and differences rather than commonalities. This programming can create a significant challenge in how we interact with people who appear different. How can we shift from this focus on identity to a focus on behavior irrespective of identity?

Mike has built a university center to focus on how we deal with identity and cultural difference. He believes that after issues of poverty and climate change, this is the biggest issue facing us as global citizens. Learning to deal with differences may be the single biggest driver to reduce global and local conflict. Over the course of history, conflict was often about resources. Now we are finding that conflict is about changing people to be like us. If, in a global world, we are to live with increased levels of peace and prosperity, we need to change our mindset and behaviors.  

What can we do in behavioral terms to change our current trajectory?
1. We need to step up and be inclusive rather than exclusive wherever and whenever we can.
2. Where we are excluding others, and how do we embrace differences in ways that make us feel safe?
3. Ask the questions: How am I excluding others? Why am I excluding?
4. We need to accept differences and learn to respect others (we don’t need to assimilate or change them, but rather respect their rights and differences).

About the Author
Professor Hardy was appointed as Executive Director of the Centre for Trust Peace and Social Relations in 2014. From 1995, Mike was a senior leader with the British Council responsible for the Council’s global programme for Intercultural Dialogue, youth engagement, and global strategic partnerships.

Mike is an applied economist by training and was Head of Economics and Public Policy at Leeds Metropolitan University before moving to a Chair in International Business at the University of Central Lancashire. His policy and research work in economics focused on local jobs plans and skills for development in local labour markets. In 1995, following work with the UK Government, British Council, and European Commission, Mike moved full time to British Council to develop international work in intercultural relations. Following overseas postings in the Arab world and Asia, he was appointed to frame and lead British Council’s global programme in intercultural dialogue.

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What is the Business Value for Women In Leadership? By Maureen Metcalf

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What is the Business Value for Women In Leadership? By Maureen Metcalf

This blog is a companion to the interview with Susan R. Madsen and Karen Longman on VoiceAmerica “Innovative Leaders Driving Thriving Organizations” on December 20, 2016, focusing on “Women in Leadership: Why it Matters and How to Develop It.” Susan and Karen, experts and advocates for women as leaders, talk about the role women leaders play in organizations, and how we help to develop and prepare girls and women to take leadership roles.

Until relatively recently, career women generally used men as role models, emulating them because they were often mentors. Early in my career I did just this. As times have changed, however, I have been trying to understand the value that we, as women leaders, bring to organizations by acting like women rather than, as I was taught, acting like men. By acting like men, we “leave part of our value on the table” because we travel through life in different bodies, being socialized differently and ultimately having different personal and professional experiences. By denying our own experiences, we leave a gap in our ability to lead effectively and minimize what we contribute to an organization.

According to Susan Madsen, “Organizations will increasingly thrive when both men and women hold management and leadership roles.”  I wanted to understand these benefits women bring to organizations in leadership and management roles so that I could make a well-researched case to our readers and listeners who may question the general statements that we should include more women in management and leadership because of their differences. Susan’s work quantifies specific value and provides extensive data to support her claims.

For the blog post, I quote Susan’s brief extensively, but not reference her sources. If you are interested in the specific sources, please reference her original work, Utah Women and Leadership Project Research and Policy Brief: “Why Do We Need More Women Leaders in Utah?” (January 12, 2015).

Susan cites five primary benefits that companies receive by building an organization that includes both men and women in leadership and management roles. The number or percentage of each gender depends on the environment.

1. Improved financial performance: “…companies with a market capitalization of more than $10 billion and with women board members outperformed comparable businesses with all-male boards by 26 percent worldwide.” In another reference, research “…showed the following benefits: higher operating results, better stock growth, better economic growth, higher market-to-book value, better corporate governance and oversight, improved corporate sustainability, and overall increased profitability.”

2. Strengthening organizational culture: “…the Corporate Leadership Council discovered a link connecting commitment to diversity and inclusion with the level of employee engagement.” The study cites several other examples of the impact women in leadership roles have on a company’s culture. “Women leaders also tend to look more carefully at issues of fairness in policies and practices for all employees. A Chinese study found that boards with higher numbers of women were less likely to violate security regulations and to commit fraud.” And finally, “inclusive leadership styles, most commonly found in women, are also linked to reduced turnover and improved performance of diverse teams.”

3. Increased corporate social responsibility and organizational reputation: “…the Committee for Economic Development argues that having more women on boards helps companies better engage with society.” Another study found “companies viewed as ethical or good corporate citizens were more likely to have more women board directors than companies without those reputations. Internal culture and practices can strengthen organizational reputation.” (Utah Women & Leadership Blog: “Increasing CSR and Organizational Reputation,” June 5, 2015.)

4. Leveraging Talent: Both male and female qualities are necessary for effective organizations, although the specific situation dictates which qualities are most effective in any given setting. “Women tend to be more holistic rather than linear thinkers. They usually look for win-win instead of win-lose solutions and are often more process-oriented than men are.” In addition to being more holistic, “Women are also known to be more sensitive to nonverbal communication cues and are often more comfortable with ambiguity.” Finally, when looking at another study, “Researchers looked at data from 7,000 leaders and found that, according to subordinates, peers, and superiors, women outperformed men on 12 of 16 measures of outstanding leadership competencies and scored the same as men in the other four. Most significantly, women’s scores lead those of men in taking initiative, practicing self-development, displaying high integrity and honesty, and driving for results.”

5. Enhancing innovation and collective intelligence: “…research findings revealed that the ‘number of women in the group significantly predicted the effective problem-solving abilities of the group overall.’ As with other studies, the researchers also found that the collective intelligence of the group exceeded the cognitive abilities and aptitudes of the individual members of the group. This collective intelligence is critical to effective decision making and problem solving, as well as high levels of innovation and creativity.”

These data make a strong case that including the right women in leadership and management roles improves organizational performance, and are held true globally and across a broad range of organizations.

For organizations looking for leverage points to improve performance, you may be missing a significant differentiator if you have not evaluated your polices on developing, recruiting, and retaining women.

If you are looking for additional information, the International Leadership Association, in concert with Information Age Publishing, launched a new book series: Women and Leadership: Research, Theory, and Practice. This series asks provocative questions about the status quo, encouragers and discouragers to women’s leadership advancement, explores what strategies are working, and if the “pipeline” is a helpful metaphor for addressing the challenges that still confront high-potential women.

To become a more innovative leader, please consider our online leader development program. For additional tools, we recommend taking leadership assessments, using the Innovative Leadership Fieldbook and Innovative Leaders Guide to Transforming Organizations, and adding coaching to our online innovative leadership program. We also offer several workshops to help you build these skills.

About the author

Maureen Metcalf, CEO and Founder of Metcalf & Associates, is a renowned executive advisor, author, speaker, and coach whose 30 years of business experience provides high-impact, practical solutions that support her clients’ leadership development and organizational transformations. Maureen is recognized as an innovative, principled thought leader who combines intellectual rigor and discipline with an ability to translate theory into practice. Her operational skills are coupled with a strategic ability to analyze, develop, and implement successful strategies for profitability, growth, and sustainability.

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Building and Sustaining Vitality for Leaders: Ron Heifetz By Maureen Metcalf

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Building and Sustaining Vitality for Leaders: Ron Heifetz By Maureen Metcalf

 

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This blog is a companion to Dr. Ron Heifetz’s interview focusing on the importance of building and sustaining vitality for leaders that aired on December 6, 2016 on Voice America “Innovative Leaders Driving Thriving Organizations.”

Ronald Heifetz founded the Center for Public Leadership and is the King Hussein bin Talal Senior Lecturer in Public Leadership at Harvard Kennedy School. Ron is a sought-after speaker and advises heads of governments, businesses, and nonprofit organizations throughout the world. He co-developed the adaptive leadership framework.

Perhaps surprisingly, Ron’s concentration on leadership—how it’s defined and how it evolves—is not his first career. He began as a physician focusing on individual symptoms and issues with his patients. He worked in prisons, then with executives providing assessments and treatment. Through his work, he learned that leadership in high positions of authority could be challenging, difficult, isolating, and lead to behaviors that are not healthy. He studied neurobiology and psychology, along with leadership, to provide himself with a foundation to develop early leadership programs at Harvard. He was in open terrain creating foundational programs.

Leadership is a practice, something one does to address a set of problems in the world. It is not the same as having a position of authority. The field of leadership—how it is interpreted and perceived—is often challenging because it confuses leadership with authority and position power. We know this because we complain about the lack of leadership by people in authority. Anyone can practice leadership with or without authority. The civil rights movement is a good example of effective leaders—with no formal authority—making a significant impact.

Leaders engage people in rethinking their own priorities and by examining contradictions in their value set. Generally, people rectify contradictions by putting them out of sight. People who practice leadership become neutralized when they raise questions that are hard to wrestle with and point out these contradictions.

In times of change, people often try to hold onto the values of their culture that have had personal meaning and significance to them. When dominant cultures are confronted with stresses such as immigrants, they are called to examine their values and often required to take on very difficult integrative work. The leadership required must point out values such as: We stand for freedom and respect for all people, and our policy does not align with what we say we stand for. How do we make space for this evolution? What are the “gives” and “gets” required to evolve cultures? How can we hold steady to our cultural DNA and still evolve?

In nature, when an organism adapts, it builds on its old capacity and generates radically new functionality. Ron suggested that God didn’t do zero-based budgeting in evolution. We honor our past and at the same time determine what can we release in service of adaptation. The losses are significant to those losing.

In the practice of leadership, effective leaders sense and anticipate the losses. The inclination of many people with great ideas and virtuous beliefs tend to devalue those opposing them rather than acknowledging the good in the opposing system. Effective leaders need to be able to speak with compassion to the losses the individuals, organizations, and communities will face as well as acknowledging the virtue in the opposing systems. It is often when we point to the “other” as bad or wrong that we create the polarization that causes pain.  

As an example, in countries where there has been disparity in equal education for boys and girls, parents—often particularly fathers—need to see the benefits of the change to endure the losses they anticipate they will experience when they educate their wives and daughters. People can be mobilized to endure loss created by change IF they see the reason why change. The benefits may be individual and impact the cultural DNA and if they see the change as an improvement to their current system rather than a replacement of their cherished values.

As leaders, we need to help people see that what they gain is important to their core values and how the change will help their tradition in evolving, rather than devaluing their core values and traditions. They maintain their tradition and refine or evolve it. If this evolution causes damages to relationships (as will often happen), the relationships need to be renegotiated as part of the change process.

These changes may impact deeply-held values and identities. Making change can build on, rather than diminishing, the foundation on which the organization or community was built if these values and identities are carefully and compassionately attended to. This attention is often overlooked in organizational and community change initiatives.  

Many changes involve adaptive problems requiring people to build new capacities. To make the change successful, people must adapt themselves to solve the problems. One phrase I have heard that summarizes this is “the problem works the leader as much as the leader works the problem.” Leaders and people must adapt or change. This means individuals need to build their own capacity to resolve problems and leverage opportunities.
To shift from individual to systemic challenges, many of our larger social issues such as climate change don’t have a technical fix. Until there is a technology solution, we need people to change what they do and address the greater adaptive challenges involved in making these changes involving, among others, value systems and identity. Leaders need to mobilize people to change their behavior and develop new behaviors. An example for this might be cutting back on regularly eating meat and instead begin to develop a craving for non-meat meals. These are incremental and small steps, but they mobilize the individual desire to promote collective good.

An important point in the discussion was the shift in focusing on individual desires and preferences currently seen in consumerism (the former Burger King slogan “have it your way”) toward an orientation of citizenship and good for the community. If citizens don’t shift their focus away from the consumer mentality toward the citizen mentality, we will struggle to solve larger societal problems. There is a real need to move toward a view that we are each consumers AND part of a greater community, and it is only through creating a focus on both that we will make these adaptive changes. We own collective responsibility for the global conditions that we impact and that impact us. We will not make these changes based on authority-based leadership, but rather with each of us taking a leadership role.

About the author

Maureen Metcalf, CEO and founder of Metcalf & Associates, is a renowned executive advisor, consultant, author, speaker and coach whose 30 years of business experience provides high-impact, practical solutions that support her clients’ leadership development and organizational transformations. Maureen is recognized as an innovative, principled thought leader who combines intellectual rigor and discipline with an ability to translate theory into practice. Her operational skills are coupled with a strategic ability to analyze, develop, and implement successful strategies for profitability, growth, and sustainability.

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How Does the Study of Natural Systems Improve International Leadership? By Maureen Metcalf

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How Does the Study of Natural Systems Improve International Leadership? By Maureen Metcalf

This blog post is a companion to an Interview with Cynthia Cherrey, the President and CEO of the International Leadership association and internationally acclaimed leadership scholar, speaker and practitioner. During the interview, Cynthia discusses the importance of international leadership along with recommendations for important qualities successful international leaders need to demonstrate.  

Alexander von Humboldt was a preeminent scientist and, arguably, the father of environmentalism, born in Germany and spent the majority of his life in Europe and the Americas. His travels, exploration, and ecological discoveries were in the Americas.  He trekked the rain forest in Venezuela, climbed the Andes from Columbia to Lima, Perú, and traveled through Mexico up through western North America and points east. He wrote a prodigious number of volumes describing his great journeys throughout the Americas — a chronicle that blended science with poetry.

As early as 1800, while his peers were classifying the world into smaller taxonomic units, he was searching for global patterns. The insight for which he is renowned — and which was nearly two centuries ahead of its time —was that the world is a single web-like interconnected system.

Today, we readily recognize that we are each part of a complex, web-like interconnected system of information and relationships. But for over 300 years Western scientists operated from a worldview based on the industrial era and a Newtonian (machine-like) way of thinking. Leadership under that paradigm is characterized by, associated with, and embedded in a command and control, fixed hierarchical structure, anchored by positional authority.  

In thinking of leadership through the paradigm of natural systems, the leading edge is characterized through the exchange of information, evolution, learning, and adaptive fit. Nature readily illustrates that a living system actively cultivates others — an isolated system is destined to die. Nature seeks diversity. New relationships open up new possibilities. It is not a question of survival of the fittest. It is system diversity that increases survival of all system components. In fact, diversity moves a living system from surviving to thriving. Natural systems need many “agents of leadership” throughout the system because the system is constantly adapting and changing to meet the needs of its members. Instead of one positional leader there are many leaders dispersed throughout the system.

The field of leadership benefits from the insights and methods of study from many different disciplines and perspectives. This new paradigm is used as a framework to study, teach, and practice leadership by many leadership scholars, educators, and practitioners.
Within the ILA, scholars are studying leadership from the perspective of natural eco-systems because they reflect leadership models that could help human systems thrive. Practitioners are delving into how leadership practices could benefit from what nature can tell us about the power of diverse relationships.  Educators teaching leadership are using natural eco-systems to explore the concepts of adaptation, self-organizing, and evolution as an expression of organic change and leadership.

Humboldt’s view of nature as a single web-like interconnected system — an ecosystem — led him to cross disciplines to gain deeper insights. Arguably a great synthesizer across many disciplines, he explored nature through scientific methods, but also through art, history, literature, geography, and economics. He was multidisciplinary and believed in fostering communication across disciplines.

The field of leadership is also an ecosystem, if you will. It is interconnected systems of people, places, and things that work in concert to produce this epiphenomenon we call leadership. The ILA’s network reflects the models Humboldt researched, its members reflect a diverse population and its activities create the synthesis he referenced and provided through his work. The ILA encompasses people located in widely varied disciplines, sectors, cultures, countries, and viewpoints. It is the diversity of this ecosystem that allows it to thrive as we find our intersections with one another and together explore leadership as an ecosystem.

The preeminent leadership scholar and educator James MacGregor Burns, one of ILA’s founding members, frequently referred to himself as a mere “student of leadership.” As the consummate inquisitive learner, his example challenges us as leaders to ask: How do we, in our ongoing leadership journey, become perpetual learners with an intellectual curiosity that gives us greater insights, new knowledge, and effective leadership? While we may not, individually, be synthesizers like Humboldt, as long as we are engaged in learning from each other in our own diverse networks, we can meet Jim’s challenge and our collective work will continue to thrive.

 

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