Tuesday, March 4, 2014


GM CEO Mary Barra

It has long been my belief  that our most neglected resource is human potential—but that our social structures seem more concerned with enforcing conformity than encouraging creativity. In short, we are not very good at drawing out talent; and clearly some of us don’t want to.

Talent has a disconcerting habit of questioning the status quo—and those who are in power, and otherwise entrenched in their comfort zones—don’t like that. Talent is troublesome.

God knows, schools are bad enough with their emphasis on socialization, but then one—most probably—enters the corporate/government/military world where independent thought has little chance of surviving. And after a while—a very little while—you accept this as being normal. You have to if you want to keep your job—let alone advance your career.

This relentless pressure to conform has a great deal to do with social control—which brings me on to the question of leadership. If I’m going to be controlled, I would like to be well controlled. Recently, I commented on how wrong it is that women are not paid the same for equal work—and that led me to the thought that women are generally more effective than men, and might make better leaders.

So far, we are only talking my opinion—but serendipity being what it is, this morning I stumbled across an article in Business Insider which quoted research by Zenger Folkman that confirmed just that. Their findings are based upon a substantial sample and over a long period of time. They have credibility.

For more than a decade, our organization has been collecting 360° feedback data from leading organizations worldwide. We now have 450,000 feedback instruments pertaining to about 45,000 leaders, covering a wide variety of industries. The studies that follow include our most current data collected in 2011 and 2012. The sample we have used includes just under 16,000 leaders of whom two-thirds were male and one-third female. Each participant had on average 13 respondents, including their manager, their direct reports and their peers.

women in workforce chart

leadership chart

competencies chart

functional area competencies chart

The data are very clear. Women make better leaders—yet we males don’t give them much of a chance.  

I’m pretty sure we would all have a better quality of life if we did.

Photo at top is of GM CEO, Mary Barra. As matters stand, she is being paid slightly less than half of what her male predecessor received.

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