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The female factor

Aug 30 2012 11:51

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LEADERS in organisations need to deal with the emergence of a "connection economy" - an economic era driven by dynamic relationships where networks dominate.

Old mindsets of control and management are floundering in this new world.

What role can women in leadership play in this economy, and what makes women best placed to deal with the new order?

Connections are doing more than accelerating the economy; they are changing the way the economy works and the way leaders lead their organisations.

The internet, more so than any other technology, is driving us from the information era into the connection economy. Information systems are necessary, but no longer sufficient to create a competitive advantage.

Something more is required: the human factor. Dare I say the female factor?

As women, we are best known for our ability to create authentic relationships, both in and outside business. The ability to create authentic relationships is a special ingredient, and necessary requirement in the connection economy.

Who you are matters most.

Prior to the connected age, little attention was paid to the collaborative relationships possible between individuals, teams, departments, business units and organisations.

One of the most precious commodities organisations have in being able to play in the connection economy is people.

The connection economy requires a fundamental shift from seeing people as numbers, to seeing them as people who all look at the world with different perspectives.

The leadership demands in a connection economy place emphasis on characteristics and skills such as intuition, empathy, and the ability to work with paradox, polarities and uncertainty.

This is a world where asking the right questions is more important than having the answers, where leaders will need to be learners, listeners, adapters, storytellers, nurturers and synthesisers.

So in this emerging connection economy, it is women who have the inside lane when it comes to leadership, and it is women who will thrive.

A study by Gur and Gur found that the typical female manages information, emotions, and relationships differently to the typical male.

Their study concludes that women are better placed and more comfortable with facilitating discussion and smoothing conflicts than men.

These findings suggest that because female managers typically display those virtues best, project team leadership will shift more and more to women.

Similarly, in her book The Female Advantage Sally Helgesen shows that organisations run by women do not take the form of the traditional hierarchical pyramid.

Instead, they more closely resemble a web where leaders reach out, not down, to form interrelating matrices built around a central purpose.

In her later book The Web of Inclusion Helgesen takes her spider web analogy further and gives the reader a glimpse of the post-industrial organisation which is fluid, technology driven, and based on creativity and relationships.

As an analogy, webs of inclusion perfectly mesh with the ever-changing demands of the information age, diversity, and strategic alliances. Women seem to function well in this environment.

Two of the most important factors propelling women into positions of corporate power are the two major forces that are shaping the economy itself.

These are rapid technological change and the shift to what is typically referred to as the horizontal corporation.

These changes will ultimately favour leaders who excel at influencing others, are team players and understand how to create the space for dialogue and thinking together for the good of the whole.

This requires a level of maturity in which you + me = let us work together. By listening, supporting, and encouraging people to differ, leaders ensure a constant dialogue over future directions and resolving the tensions between competing ideas.

These leaders have sensitivity to others and respect their ideas, feelings and emotions.

Interactive leadership is all about creating an emotional connection with people and is one of the reasons why women are finding their way into more and more leadership positions.

They have a greater tendency to create webs of inclusion and environments for open communication.

These skills may come more naturally to women, and they may be the most important ingredients for success in the 21st century as male-dominated organisations struggle to find a new touchstone to release the talent locked within their diverse workforce.

 - Fin24

* Ngao Motsei is group executive strategic human resources of MMI Holdings. She is the latest guest columnist taking part in Fin24's Women's Month campaign celebrating women in business.

Previous women's month columns:

Dare to take risks - Kate van Niekerk, marketing manager of Norcros SA

Seducer or slavemaster - Jacqueline Allschwang, inspirational and transformational NLP coach and facilitator and owns Inspire Transformations

Knowledge is power
- Mimi Viviers, key accounts executive at Connection Telecom

Sweet and simple - Sandy Wilde, head of Sanlam icover

Does money matter
- Jessica Pryce-Jones, CEO of the iOpener Institute for People and Performance

Starting from scratch
- Karen Short, founder and chairperson of By Word of Mouth

It's all in alignment - Anli Kotzé, general manager at Ladbrokes.co.za

Make it a team effort - Lulu Letlape, executive head of group corporate affairs at Sanlam

Life isn't like the movies - Judith Middleton, founder and CEO of DUO Marketing + Communications

Ramp up your fun factor - Marteen Michau, head of fiduciary and tax at Sanlam Private Investments

Map your delivery plan - Jackie Carroll, managing director for Media Works

Fine balancing act - Managing director of MUA Insurance Acceptances

Small victories are sweet
- CEO of Save the Children South Africa

Head in the clouds - Marketing manager at kulula.com

The sky's the limit - Tsidi Luse, quality control manager at Lafarge's Lichtenburg plant

In the driving seat - Dawn Nathan-Jones, CEO, Europcar

Get your hands dirty - Sandra Burmeister, CEO of the Landelahni Recruitment Group

Manage like a woman - Wahida Parker, director of Equillore

Four tips for working moms - Glynnis Jeffries, head: business development at Futuregrowth

Women a force for change - Amelia Jones, CEO of Community Chest

Don't be an ice queen - Nicole Fannin, financial consultant at deVere Group 



* Follow Fin24 on FacebookTwitter and Google+.


workplace  |  business  |  women
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