This week I attended an HR Forum where EDHEC business school presenting some fascinating research around perceptions of good leadership and how men and women perceive diversity, inclusion and gender equality in the companies.

In this European-wide research it asked men and women managers and senior managers from a list of twenty characteristics, how important they felt each to be for “good leaders”. The top five characteristics respondents expected in a “good leader” were

  • Has authority
  • Willing to take risks
  • Strong and energetic
  • Sincere
  • Sensitive to others’ needs

It seems that even in 2019 leadership is still represented as heroic – about vision and charisma, the Bill Clinton archetype.

The same group were asked what they looked for in their own managers as opposed to theoretical ones. Who did they actually want to follow? Integrity, considerate to us and the needs of the team, someone who acts on their values, creates a sense of community, clarity were some of the responses. We want leaders who relate to us as human beings, not as solo, “out at the front” visionaries.

This creates problems, said EDHEC business school not least because companies continue to hire for vision, charisma and authority, rather than those people who might get buy-in from others, those who have the emotional intelligence to get things done. As a result, there’s a decrease in job satisfaction, more silo working and so on, found the research. The answer? To build companies’ capacities to grow and hire more inclusive leaders.

As a leadership coach, women leaders usually come to me with coaching goals like “I need to be more visionary”, “I need be more charismatic”, “I must speak up more”, “demonstrate greater confidence” and so on. All feedback they have received, usually from male bosses and colleagues.

This expectation has lead many a client to feel inadequate to lead.

I hope this research gets more visibility. It confirms what we knew and felt in our hearts that there are different ways of leading. As a leadership coach, I now have evidence that I can show my clients that by owning and using even more fully some of the qualities and strengths they already have, woman are and can become in fact the leaders their teams want them to be.

Are you a company interested in helping to foster a more inclusive workplace? Are you interested in how men and women can build their emotional intelligence to be the leaders their teams want them to be, rather than some outdated notion of what business books have been telling us for years that we should be? Request a consultation to find out about how we can assist your organisation and its leaders.

Read the Diversity Leadership and Inclusion – How to improve diversity and foster a climate of inclusion in companies? Study