Friday, July 15, 2011

How Remarkable Women Lead - Review

How Remarkable Women Lead: The Breakthrough Model for Work and Life
By Joanna Barsh and Susie Cranton

I came across this quite a few months ago and since it's come up quite a lot recently in conversation I thought it would be helpful to summarize some of the reasons why I found it helpful. There are many great ways to use this book. For me, my main takeaways were a helpful method for reframing a past situation (useful any time you’re playing something back in a spiral), and some positive models of women leaders that I could use as a reference in different situations.
There is a comparative dearth of visible women leaders from whom younger women can gain clues to success, and the authors Joanna Barsh and Susie Cranston did a remarkable job of bridging this gap with their research in the McKinsey Centered Leadership Institute. Interviewing successful women ranging from Andrea Jung, the CEO of Avon through to film directors, lawyers, and even Julie Gillard (the sometimes polarizing prime minister of Australia), the authors extracted a five point model of what it takes to be an effective leader and also provide some useful anecdotes and examples along the way.
Centered Leadership – 5 Main Factors:
1. Meaning
Are you currently living your highest and best use at work?
This is the self awareness piece, where the authors urge the reader to get in touch both with her strengths, as well as what encapsulates her sense of purpose. There is a useful distinction here, between just doing what you’re good at, and doing what you know you were put on earth to do. Both can bring success, but the authors urge that a certain amount of self reflection and dreaming will be a huge difference maker in the degree of success you achieve, and your satisfaction.
2. Framing
Do you choose positive optimism?
How you choose to see the world and interpret your experiences can make a huge impact on your dealings with others, and your career success. The authors are careful to explain however that this is not a matter of merely donning rose colored glasses and construing everything favorably, but more about ensuring that you do not allow negative filters to distort what is really happening. There is also a useful method for analyzing events laid out that can be used to check in with yourself and understand what kind of framing is taking place, and whether it is serving your best outcome.
3. Connecting
How much active design is at work in your own professional network?
Consciously building your network and proactively cultivating your professional community is the antidote to operating in isolation or keeping just a small number of deep relationships – which a lot of women professionals and entrepreneurs can tend to do. The authors suggest some helpful ways for conscious ‘network design’, such as finding sponsors – someone senior in your organization or industry genuinely willing to stick their neck out for you (as opposed to mentors), and offering significant value back to this person along the lines of your radar, network, time, resourcefulness, family assistance and asking them good questions.
4. Engaging
Finding the best way to speak up and be heard is often a huge challenge, particularly earlier on in our careers when insecurities about being new, young, lacking knowledge, rank etc run wild. But believing that your actions alone will be enough to warrant career progress in a corporate meritocracy is a common (heinous) mistake that will leave many floundering when they could be striding – so finding effective ways to say your piece is critical. The authors also stress that in many cases, learning to listen is also a huge part of this too.
5. Energizing
How well do you manage your energy? How do you feel at the end of the day, at the end of the week?
The bottom line is that if you are not conserving and refueling your energy, you will not be able to sustain your success. Energy here is broken out into four categories – physical, cognitive (focus), psychological, and social. The most useful note in this series of chapters centered around how to fill up on energizers (such as music, exercise, gratitude), and how to minimize the drains (like keeping your Blackberry right beside your bed).
The overall goal across all segments of the book is to in some way provide the reader with useable questions, methods for coping with challenging situations, and a framework for managing thoughts and behavior that will improve your level of professional success. At the very least, it should kick off a useful chain of questioning within the reader that begins the so-called leadership journey.

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