Use "Female Vision" to Strengthen Your Organization

New research from author Sally Helgesen on how to leverage the strengths of women leaders. Plus: Helgesen shares her favorite power lunch, advice for CEOs, and more in the Favorites Game.

Organizations will lose money and harm progress toward their missions if they continue to undervalue the unique strategic abilities of women leaders, concludes leadership researcher Sally Helgesen. In her latest book, The Female Vision: Women's Real Power at Work, Helgesen and coauthor Julie Johnson detail three "elements" or strategic trends "that women have to bring to organizations that are not being as well leveraged as they could."

The Favorites Game: A Different Leadership Lens

What can associations do in their own work cultures to address these findings? Helgesen shares some advice, and other top picks, in this month's Favorites Game:

Favorite tactic to build a new relationship: What I call "going deep fast"—shortcutting through the small talk and getting to a real question like "What's your biggest concern today?"
Favorite advice to women leaders: Trust your gut.
Favorite advice to male CEOs: Broaden your lens when you think about leadership capabilities.
Favorite power lunch: Salmon.
Favorite social medium: LinkedIn.
Favorite class in college: Ancient history.
Favorite required class reading: Leading Change by James O'Toole.
Favorite learning experience: Not whitewater rafting! Immersion in a dramatically different culture, which I've had on a number of different occasions, such as in Pakistan or Zimbabwe.
Favorite female novelist: Barbara Pym.

Setting vision within the broader landscape. Most women professionals have a strong "capacity for broad-scale notice," the ability to pick up clues about many different things at one time as opposed to a laser focus on a single issue. "There's evidence that women excel at bringing context to vision making," Helgesen says.

Nuanced decision making. "Women tend to make decisions in the context of more information and more subjective information," taking an approach that includes both "numbers and nuance" rather than one area exclusively, says Helgesen. "That numbers-only approach is inherently short term," she says. "It comes back to bite many organizations and their stakeholders in different ways."

Different understanding of motivation. Women determine the value of their work differently than men. Helgesen's research reveals that female leaders often leave top positions or turn down such opportunities because of organizations' false assumption that high compensation alone adequately entices a professional to withstand increased responsibility and stress. "The reason this is relevant is not just to define the differences between men and women but to look at what organizations perceive as really motivating people," says Helgesen.

"Women tended to value those rewards, but also the daily experience they were having in the workplace," Helgesen says, including the ability to build and enjoy meaningful relationships and believe in a larger organizational purpose. "Men are more typically likely to report that their source of satisfaction was … direct competition with others as opposed to taking pleasure in more collaborative experiences."

Kristin Clarke is a writer, editor, and researcher with ASAE. Email: [email protected]