Are Success And Likeability Mutually Exclusive?

5 November, 2014

Screen Shot 2014-11-05 at 11.11.06 AMLately I’ve had this insatiable appetite for learning about women in leadership. Who are they? What drives them? What sacrifices do they make? How successful are they really?

The stats are dismal. With a female population of 52%, less than 4% of CEOs in this country are women and just over 21% hold executive positions. This is according to the 2012 Women in Leadership Census conducted by the Business Women’s Association of South Africa (BWASA).

Why is it so low? I have some theories, but we’ll get to that a little later.

Right now I want to talk about the other appetite I’ve been developing, and that’s for the future of work. You see I believe that who we are, rather than what we do is the source of sustainability in the world of work. So with this in mind, I’m very interested in the qualities people will need in the workplace of the future. What I’ve found is this:

“The future of work lies in collaboration, communication and consultation” as put to us by social theorist John Gerzema. He claims that these are the top three things that men can learn from women to make their careers more successful.

Can you see something wrong with this picture? If women are better skilled at the top 3 work needs of the future, let’s get back to my earlier question: why are there so few of them in leadership positions today?

The research points to these five reasons:

  1. Women’s leadership style is not fully understood, or valued. The emphasis many women leaders place on building relationships and connection is often pooh-poohed as a “less-than” leadership style. Added to this, women don’t have mentors or role models to learn from or to lean on for support.
  2. Work-life balance clashes. Even if both partners work full time, the stats show that women do twice as much housework and three times as much childcare as their spouse. If for whatever reason one party has to give up work to spend more time at home, it’s almost always the woman.
  3. The high cost of ambition. While men with their sights on the top prize are seen as focused and driven, women are called as bitchy and hard. The data shows that success and likeability are positively associated for men, and negatively associated for women.
  4. Self-promotion sucks. Women are less comfortable with self-promotion and feel that doing a good job is enough to be recognised and promoted. Men are more likely to speak up. Women use ‘we’ statements rather than ‘me’ statements, giving credit to the team rather than taking it for themselves.
  5. Women don’t like schmoozing. The misconception that networking is about ‘what’s in it for me’ clouds the fact that women are good at it.

So what now?

Sheryl Sandberg, COO of Facebook and one of the world’s most influential and powerful women in business, gives this advice:

Message 1: Women must sit at the table

Show up and step up. No one gets the corner office by sitting on the side. No one gets a promotion they don’t think they deserve. She reminds women to negotiate for themselves, reach for opportunities and believe in their own success.

Message 2: Make your partner a real partner

Women have made more progress in the workforce than they have in the home: why do we carry exponentially more responsibility in the home and not put plans in place to share duties between working spouses equally?

Message 3: Don’t leave before you leave

Don’t take your foot off the pedal just because you’re thinking about settling down and having children. Your job needs to be challenging and rewarding and you need to feel like you’re really making a difference in order to go back to work after having children. Stay committed while you’re there.

Here are more tips from the experts to help women build amazing careers:

  • Focus on meeting and connecting with others, inside and outside of your organisation. Build community and relationships online and off.
  • Have concrete, measurable and specific short and long-term goals for your career. Find a supportive coaching buddy to hold you accountable.
  • Post or share articles you’ve read or written on LinkedIn. Build your online credibility.
  • Brand your entire team. Make sure each member is aware of the importance of personal branding and the impact it has on reputation.
  • If you’re considering a career change, develop a clear, well-informed plan that contains realistic financial and professional development goals to get there.
  • And lastly – a controversial one – go for regular interviews. Practice communicating why you are amazing.

Now it’s over to you. What are your thoughts on women in leadership and how would you recommend breaking through the glass ceiling?

Robyn Young - Personal Leadership Branding for Executives

About the Author

Robyn Young

As a personal leadership branding strategist, Robyn Young helps individuals identify and articulate their unique strengths, values and goals, empowering them to build an authentic personal brand that resonates with their stakeholders.

Robyn has a keen eye for aligning personal attributes with professional aspirations, helping her clients project a powerful and compelling image in their chosen field.