Women, Leadership, and a Flexible Organization

a woman's shoe holding open a door

There is a trend that is taking place and it seems to be the opposite of what many may expect. Women are leaving organizations before they make it to upper management. One could speculate as to what may be driving this trend.

A recent story on NPR talked about this very issue. It presented only two scenarios but, in my experience and conversations with female professionals, these two situations represent a significant majority of women. First, there are women who feel there isn’t room for a family, kids and “life at the top.” Second, working based on passion is more important than just money. What I find most interesting about both of theses scenarios is that they are both rooted in someone being forced to choose, as if there is an unchangeable dichotomy that exists.

If you’re passionate about something, it is tough to find a way to make good money with it. If you care about having a family, then upper-level management doesn’t have room for that.

If you’re passionate about something, it is tough to find a way to make good money with it.

These are what I like to call faux problems. They are structural in nature; however, they are not substantive. These two particular “problems” serve as beacons that point the way to the shortcomings of all of us in the leadership space. We have become so enthralled in our programs and the like that we wrap ourselves in our own egos. We throw around phrases like, “Leadership is tough” and “Sacrifice is what makes a good leader” and then use these truths – truthful when placed in the proper context – as manipulative weapons.

We have become so enthralled in our programs and the like that we wrap ourselves in our own egos

Leadership is as much about discovery as it is development. Part of that discovery process is about learning the potential of others. Another part of that discovery process is to recognize where we have fallen short and learn about our own potential.We have the opportunity to discover, dare I say create, what executive management can look like when it is both effective and flexible for families.

Since when was a family-focus solely the role of, and benefit to, women? What about passion? Why are we not engaging with women to understand their passions and find a way to create an outlet for it in our organizations? Imagine what your organization could do if authentic passion were aligned and actively contributing to your organizational goals. Everyone I’ve spoken to in leadership loves this idea, but very few people are doing it. Sounds a bit crazy to me, and borderline sadistic.

Imagine what your organization could do if authentic passion was aligned and actively contributing to your organizational goals.

The assumption that passion-driven roles, focused on achieving organizational goals, led by leadership that has the freedom and flexibility to integrate family needs into their time management can’t co-exist is the prison of the uncreative. For the sake of actively participating in the positive evolution of business, let’s end the matter-of-fact statements that only serve to temper the bars of this prison. The evolution of business is that of meeting needs. It is one of meeting the needs of the customer, the employee, the leader and of financial goals.

Lets end the matter-of-fact statements that only serve to temper the bars of this prison.

If we are unable to figure out how to do this, we are nowhere near as intelligent as we present ourselves to be. We have no room to boast of our accomplishments in other areas if we are too cowardly or intellectually lazy to figure out how to do this well. This is my challenge. This is your challenge. This is a defining moment from which business can shine or sheepishly perpetuate a lack-luster quest for mere money.

Photo credit: Flickr