(The article originally appeared in Advantage Business Magazine.)
Posted on 14 November 2013.
“In the future, there will be no female leaders. There will just be leaders.”
― Sheryl Sandberg, Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead
Women have a problematic relationship with leadership. We don’t think of it as a standalone skill and we don’t set out to “lead” people. What we do every day is simply what needs to be done. We see a wrong that needs to be righted or a job that must be finished, all work that needs to be done. We look around to see if anyone else is stepping up and, if not, we get on with it.
Not only do we do what needs to be done without thinking of it as leading, we also see the terms “leader” and “power” and sometimes get the heebie-jeebies. Don’t believe me? Just ask Sheryl Sandberg.
Sheryl Sandberg is the Chief Operating Officer of Facebook and was the first woman to be elected to its board. Before Facebook, Sandberg was Vice President of Global Online Sales and Operations at Google. Before Google, she served as Chief of Staff for the United States Secretary of the Treasury. In 2012 she was named in the Time 100, an annual list of the 100 most influential people in the world according to Time magazine. She was worth an estimated $400 million before she wrote her best-selling book Lean In in 2013. All of this – and she still gets the heebie-jeebies.
In fact, a good portion of her book is about how to take more risks and how to avoid the so-called “Imposter Syndrome,” which she described like this: “At last, [in college] someone was articulating exactly how I felt. Every time I was called on in class, I was sure that I was about to embarrass myself. Every time I took a test, I was sure that it had gone badly. And every time I didn’t embarrass myself – or even excelled – I believed I had fooled everyone yet again. One day soon, the jig would be up.”
If Sheryl Sandberg felt this way – and still does sometimes, by her own admission – it is clear that women experience leadership in a different way than most men. That’s why the Jacksonville Women’s Business Center board and Jacksonville University created a leadership program specifically for women.
Leadership Matters is designed to develop image, influence, and power among women leaders, by delivering knowledge with mentoring support. Participants attend six workshops facilitated by JU faculty over three months and are assigned a mentor to assist with specific personal and professional development goals. Dr. Matrecia James, the JU professor who is delivering the classroom content, says that women struggle with self-promotion, an essential skill for executives hoping to make it to the C-suite. “Nationally, fewer than five percent of Fortune 500 companies are led by women, despite having many women to choose from in their executive talent pools. In my experience, women don’t have the strong network or mentoring relationships that will get them promoted. That’s why we spend time on how to form and grow connections in the Leadership Matters program,” James explains.
Dr. James goes on to cite McClelland’s Need Theory, a motivational model that describes how the need for achievement (getting things done), power (the desire to influence people), or affiliation (the need to be liked) can influence behavior in an organization. Women, she says, tend to care more than men about being liked, which can weaken their perceived leadership potential. Sheryl Sandberg agrees. She has been quoted as saying that in in her first Facebook performance review Mark Zuckerberg told her that her need to be liked was holding her back.
But likeability and strong leadership are not mutually exclusive, especially at JU. Arguably, the university’s most beloved leader is a woman. Dr. Frances Kinne became the first female dean of a College of Fine Arts in the U.S. in 1961. In 1979, she became the first woman president of a college or university in the state of Florida. Kinne was JU’s president for 10 years and chancellor from 1989 to 1994. Her accomplishments are even more astounding when you consider that fewer than 23 percent of colleges and universities have a woman as president in 2013.
At 96, she still attends functions on campus where it is obvious that her leadership, humor, and spirit are still valued. Dr. James says that Dr. Kinne continues to inspire women at the university and remains relevant for the students as well. “When she spoke at matriculation, the students were hanging on her every word.” Current JU president Tim Cost, who received his diploma from Dr. Kinne in 1981, consulted her before accepting the post in 2013. Cost’s leadership style is warm and inclusive. Both PepsiCo and Aramark were named as Best Places for Women to Work while he served on the executive team.
Sheryl Sandberg writes, “I know that my success comes from hard work, help from others and being in the right place at the right time… No one accomplishes anything alone.” When Harvard Business School professor Rosabeth Moss Kanter was asked at a conference what men could do to advance women’s leadership, she deadpanned, “the laundry.”
Candace Moody is VP of Communications for WorkSource, the regional workforce development organization. She has over 15 years of experience in private industry including human resources, recruiting and career consulting. Candace is a graduate of the University of Wisconsin and earned an MBA at Jacksonville University.