Women leaders are designing a new corporate culture that fosters innovation for a time of rapid change, according to a report on how women lead change by The Everest Project.
Women are leading transformational change by embracing smart risk, using humility as "a new power tool,” fostering collaboration and leveraging their differences, according to "Eve of Change: Women Redefining Corporate America,” based on interviews with 392 executives, including 132 CEOs and women a few steps from the c-suite, plus two colleagues, a manager or peer and a direct report, of each.
More than half of the change initiatives catalogued by The Everest Project represent women-led strategic or structural change, with significant organizational impact, from contributing billions of dollars to bottom lines, building new businesses or rebuilding failing ones, to inspiring social movements beyond their corporate doors.
"Women executives lead from the known to the unknown, transforming the hearts and minds of their people in the process and creating cultures more open to innovation,” according to the report.
Taking risks with confidence
Contrary to popular belief, women leaders embrace risk-taking, the report concluded. "Many [believe] women are uncomfortable taking risks, yet there were no less than 359 comments about women’s risk-taking in the interview data,” according to the report. "Women take risks using smart strategies, all in the service of transforming their companies.”
A common thread in many of female executives’ strategies was humility. "Humility, most often thought of as a weakness, is the unsung power tool in leadership,” the report concludes. "Humility is a critically important skill in this era of flat organizations and a flat world where everyone is called upon to collaborate and work effectively across silos. Women utilize humility to enhance their success at leading change and transformation.”
At the core of that humility: women’s confidence. "Notwithstanding the supposed confidence gap between men and women, the data demonstrate that women exhibit a high degree of confidence when leading with humility,” The Everest Project reports.
Women leaders are redefining collaboration — not to be confused with consensus building — and are emphasizing informed decision making, according to the report. "If managers think consensus building is the only way women lead; they’d better think again. Collaborating across the organization for women does not mean an abdication of decision-making responsibility. Women are the new deciders-in-chief taking a proactive approach to collaboration.”
The women executives studied by The Everest Project are masterfully leveraging their qualifications, including aspects of their identity. "The women who have figured out how to use their gender, their race and ethnicity, and their sexual orientation as part of their leadership toolkit, bring far more to the table for their companies and themselves,” the researchers found.