Sunday, February 13, 2011

Results are in: leadership leads

We recently ran a short study among our members, which currently amounts to just on 800 women working in media and technology related fields in the New York area. As we plan our 2011 event and content slate, we want to make sure that we are tuned to what is most important to you. Over 100 of you took our survey - thank you! (Having worked for several years with consumer research panels with comScore I am VERY impressed by what amounts to almost a 13% response rate - unheard of!!)

We certainly learned a lot - about who you are, what you most want to develop in yourself, what kinds of topics interest you for future events and the biggest critical drivers that you feel would transform your professional careers.

Here are a few topline results to set the scene:

In terms of demographics, 73% of the group are 25-49 (breaking out into 38% and 35% respectively). We skew strongly towards higher income, with just on 40% earning $150,000+, and over 60% in the six figures and over range. Nearly a quarter of respondents are founders of their own company, with the remaining women working roughly evenly in companies of all sizes. 

Here is what you told us are the main things you want to develop in yourself professionally:

As you can see, Leadership is viewed by far to be the most important development goal, with almost two thirds of respondents choosing this quality.

But what does it mean to be a great leader, and what are the most important behaviors and knowledge to take your own leadership to the next level?

While this is by no means the only factor, the following is an important place to start, and one which seems so obvious that it is frequently overlooked in discussions on leadership.

Developing a true desire to lead

All leadership begins with a genuine desire to guide, support and to otherwise add value to the lives of others. True leadership is not an externality – it comes from within, and it is given by others, through trust. You have to genuinely want to lead people - through both the good and the bad - and to understand that this takes considerable effort, patience and persistence.
While many wish to lead, most do not want to truly follow through with the work required to earn the the permission to lead. Let's be honest here: leadership, though rewarding, can be hard work. A genuine willingness and desire to lead others must therefore be consciously chosen.

What does wanting to lead others really mean to you? If it’s about wanting to be affirmed or to be validated, or just because you see it as something you need to do to get ahead, then you will struggle to be a successful leader.

At its heart, a desire to lead means genuinely wanting to:
-     - Do the things that others are not prepared to do in order to produce consistently strong results
-     - Be brave and take full responsibility for setting the course within an organization, group or division, and be fully accountable for the execution (although many pieces of the execution may be delegated). It goes without saying that full responsibility and accountability does not mean taking credit for the work rightly completed by others
-     - Hold yourself to high standards and set a positive example for others to live by
-     - Be trustworthy, honest, authentic and to otherwise act congruently with your beliefs and values
-     - Develop and empower others to become successful at what they do
-     - Be the best you can be, and to not hold yourself or others back from reaching your full potential, or from dreaming big dreams

Genuinely wanting these things for yourself and for others within your organization can greatly increase your credibility and the speed with which people will buy into what you say, making you the kind of person who others will look to to set the direction and who they will endow with greater and greater responsibility, and trust.

What do you think is the most important element of a great leader? I'd love to hear from you on this!

Leadership as a quality to be developed is followed by Entrepreneurship (47% agreed), and then by Stress Management (40%). Entrepreneurship rated highly notwithstanding 75% of respondents currently work inside of companies (not in a founder role), revealing that the thinking and methodologies of successful entrepreneurship can be applied at any level of professional life (and likely also that many of you have dreams of starting your own company!)

The high rate of agreement in the importance of developing Stress Management techniques came as a bit of a surprise to me at first - although upon reflection this makes perfect sense. High performers frequently put themselves and their bodies under strain with constant travel, pressured situations and ever expanding responsibilities and accountability - remembering to take care of yourself and to manage your state so that you can both continue to perform at your peak and not make health concessions is something that increasingly needs to be an area of focus for sustainable personal and professional development.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I would add that learning how to communicate well is also important. To communicate the right way depending on the particular forum. This is sometimes viewed as fakeness or otherwise a contrivance but as Steve demos pointed out when quizzed on how much his communication style had changed when his company white wave took off 'if you are really and passionately committed to what you want to accomplish, you adjust to the language spoken'