Learning to Lead: A Comparison of Women’s and General Leadership Development Programs

6109345368_004befc070_z[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 JME(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.

You can read “Inclusive Leadership Development: Drawing from Pedagogies of Women’s and General Leadership Development Programs” from Journal of Management Education free for the next two weeks by clicking here. Want to be the first to know about the latest research published by Journal of Management EducationClick here to sign up for e-alerts!

*Image attributed to aiesecgermany (CC)

Learning to Lead, Unscripted

If leadership itself is a social, collaborative, and creative process, why shouldn’t leadership development take root through creative and collaborative experience? A new study in the September 2012 issue of Human Resource Development Review sets the stage for a new model of leadership training through improvisational theatre. Suzanne Gagnon and Heather C. Vough, both of McGill University, and Robert Nickerson of Rob Nickerson Improv in Toronto published “Learning to Lead, Unscripted: Developing Affiliative Leadership Through Improvisational Theatre,” explaining:

We argue that improvisational theatre training creates a compelling experience of co-creation through interaction and, as such, can be used to build a distinctive kind of leadership skills. Theories of leadership as relational, collaborative or shared are in pointed contrast to traditional notions of an individual “hero leader” who possesses the required answers, and whom others follow. Corresponding thinking on how to develop these newer forms has, to date, been relatively rare. In this article, we draw on recent research to identify three core principles for learning affiliative leadership. We then apply literature on improvisational theatre and its main skill areas to build a model of developing affiliative leadership, and illustrate the model through an improvisation workshop in which participants learn the skills and principles that it sets out. The model and workshop may serve as useful tools for those searching for methods to develop leadership in contemporary organizations.

Click here to read the article in Human Resource Development Review and here to learn more about the journal.

Are you interested in receiving the latest HRD research in your inbox? Click here to sign up for e-alerts and get notified about newly published articles and issues.

Leadership Effectiveness

Organizational Change and Characteristics of Leadership Effectiveness” by Ann Gilley, Heather McMillan, and Jerry W. Gilley was published in the Journal of Leadership and Organizational Studies in 2009. It became one of the top downloaded articles of the year, so the authors have provided a brief insight on their study as well as continued research: 

This article is part of a larger longitudinal study of managerial/leadership practices and malpractice inspired by our more than four decades of experience and consulting in the corporate world.  In addition to change, this study explores leadership effectiveness at all organizational levels in a host of areas, including communications, decision making, coaching, rewards and recognition, and team building, to name a few. In truth, we’ve been surprised by the results. For example, respondents have indicated that their managers/leaders are ‘never,’ ‘rarely,’ or only ‘sometimes’ effective in each of our topical areas nearly 75% of the time. This confirms that managerial malpractice is alive and well in organizations.

We’ve had a tremendous response rate (nearly 95%), even enthusiasm, from respondents. Everyone deals with managers / leaders, which may explain why the topic resonates with so many.  It has struck a chord with respondents, many of whom want to ‘tell their story,’ particularly of experiences with ineffective or ‘bad’ managers / leaders. Our continuing research gathers data about leadership characteristics and skills in one’s organization as well as regarding  one’s immediate supervisor. Future articles gleaned from the data will examine leadership skill levels associated with other topics in the study (e.g., team building, communications, etc.), at differing organizational levels, and pre- and post-recession perceptions, among others. Thus far, we’ve enjoyed partnering with various topical experts, and look forward to future collaborations.

Bookmark and Share