[We’re pleased to welcome Keimei Sugiyama of Case Western Reserve University. Keimei recently published an article in Journal of Management Education with co-authors Kevin V. Cavanagh, Chantal van Esch, Diana Bilimoria, and Cara Brown entitled “Inclusive Leadership Development: Drawing from Pedagogies of Women’s and General Leadership Development Programs.” From Keimei:]
The importance of leadership development training focused on women has been well understood given the challenges of overcoming gender biases, stereotypes and unwritten rules that affect women in their leadership identity transition. Yet there have also been shifts in how we think about the important qualities of leaders such that general programs include enhancing competence in self-awareness and emotional and social skills, making the work of leadership not just about meeting business demands but also about meeting the interpersonal needs of an increasingly globalized and diverse workforce. If this is the case, then does there continue to be a need for women-focused programs or has our very understanding of leadership shifted enough to include women?
In this context, we were inspired to compare general and women’s leadership development programs in order to explore the following questions:
- Are general and women’s leadership development programs becoming more similar or do they remain distinct in assumptions of what “leadership” is?
- How do these assumptions affect how relating to others is addressed in developing as a leader?
- How do these assumptions address the leadership identity transition of understanding both self and others to develop leadership capabilities?
What we found was that although General Leadership Development Programs (GLDPs) and Women’s Leadership Development Program (WLDPs) shared similar themes of leadership development, there was a stark contrast in what each type of program emphasized. GLDPs were more likely to reflect assumptions of a leader as an independent self, separate from others, and manifested in more agentic and transactional leadership approaches. WLDPs were more likely to reflect assumptions of a leader as a relational self, learning through connecting with others, and approaching the transition to leadership as relational and identity-based. Given these contrasts and the challenges that continue to face women in the transition to leadership, we concluded that WLDPs do continue to offer significant value in supporting the advancement of women in leadership.
What surprised us in this study is that despite acknowledgement of the global context of the increasingly diverse workforce, both types of programs in their descriptions did not directly highlight how leadership involves being inclusive of multiple diverse identities and intersectionality (e.g., being a woman of color). We suggest that highlighting the importance of inclusive leadership that both values uniqueness and creates belonging for diverse multiple identities is important for any leadership development program.
We also developed a model that integrates pedagogies implicit in both types of programs to suggest a framework for inclusive leadership development. We anticipate that this framework will be helpful in better balancing and promoting more inclusive approaches to leadership in both types of programs. We also hope that this model helps to expand the research on inclusive leadership and informs new pathways for leaders to be developed in ways that value and enhance all their meaningful identities.
The abstract for the paper:
Trends in extant literature suggest that more relational and identity-based leadership approaches are necessary for leadership that can harness the benefits of the diverse and globalized workforces of today and the future. In this study, we compared general leadership development programs (GLDPs) and women’s leadership development programs (WLDPs) to understand to what extent program descriptions addressed inclusive leadership—leadership that draws on relational skills to value both the uniqueness and belonging needs of diverse identities to create business effectiveness for the long term. GLDPs predominantly reflected pedagogical assumptions of separate knowing, development of the autonomous self, and masculine leadership approaches of agentic and transactional leadership. In contrast, pedagogical assumptions of connected knowing, development of the relational self, and relational and identity-based leadership approaches were more prevalent in WLDPs. These findings suggest that WLDPs continue to offer significant value to supporting women leaders in their advancement, yet both WLDPs and GLDPs can do more to be inclusive of additional diverse identities to better develop leaders of the future who can lead with inclusive behaviors. We suggest a pedagogical framework for inclusive leadership development that may better balance and promote synergies between achieving business priorities and relating to others and their diverse identities.
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