Every month, Leadership Issues reviews highlights/trends from features/articles on the subject of leadership appearing in major global newspapers. Today we are reviewing the month of April.
The top four themes for April (in order) appearing in the nationals included:
Leadership tone and environment
Women in Leadership
The number one topic last month was leadership tone and environment. This topic encapsulates the role individual leaders play in setting the right environment and conditions for followers to flourish. Articles on this subject regularly feature in the nationals but this is the first time the topic headed the leader board. It is an important aspect of leadership because as leadership development practitioners we can become fixated on creating large organisational structural change such as open planned offices and flexible working hours to attract and retain talent and overlook the role direct supervisors play in causing talented and capable individuals to exit the organisation. As Buckingham and Coffman observed in First Break all the Rules, “people leave managers, not companies.” This issue is a key justification for investing in leadership at all levels. Women and Leadership continued to dominate the global press as major publications, conferences and quotas were published. A report that came out in April from the Center for Talent Innovation led to a flurry of articles on the aspirations and ambitions of female African Americans outstripping their white female counterparts. Leadership skills and developing leaders, which topped last month’s leader board was pushed into third and fourth place. Notable absences last month included leadership and change/innovation, leadership styles and the hot topic that has dominated the national press since the start of the year, managing millennials.
Four articles stood out that are worth profiling.
Two of the articles were published in the Guardian’s Women in Leadership series. The first, Where are all the female innovators? by Dame Sue Ion, nuclear engineer and chair of judges for the Royal Academy of Engineering, reports on the growing number of high profile women in science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) and the increasing representation of women in leadership roles in the various institutes and academies; that said, she laments the perception that STEM is still male dominated. Dame Sue calls for women to shout out more about their accomplishments and become more active in popular culture in order to become role models for science and innovation. The second article, Become a yes-woman and break from the thinking patterns that hold you back by Sue Stockdale takes a look at the phenomenon of cultural negativity among women where women tend to react from an habitual, emotional, system one thinking. The article explores ways to change this default response and break negative/habitual ways of thinking and responding. One powerful way of doing this, the article explores, is to create a positive ‘yes…can-do’ support network. Business Standards published an excellent article, Don’t miss the followers, by Gurprriet Siingh. The article explores the tricky transition that followers need to make toward self-leadership. If followers have grown up in strong hierarchical cultures where leaders have made the decisions, then it is important for the leader to educate and enable followers to flourish in more democratic and empowered environments. If the leader changes their style, they cannot expect their followers to be ‘switched on like lightbulbs’ to the new leadership environment: it will take time and input from the leader to help transform followers’ mindsets to adapt to the new democratic culture. The final article of interest from April’s selection of published articles on leadership in the national press comes from The Age. Timna Jacks authored a short piece entitled Five Ways to stop your staff whinning about you on social media. The article focuses on some very technical ways of encouraging staff to refrain from dishing the dirt on their leaders in social media (including role modelling good social media etiquette, encouraging the use of internal blogs with restricted access, encouraging senior leaders to openly engage online with the critics, and creating positive briefing and information packs on the organisation for employers to use). The article, however, seems to spectacularly miss the point. A number of commentators on the article stated quite correctly that leaders should be focusing on creating a transparent environment where disgruntled employees feel comfortable about openly engaging with leaders rather than spelling out ways to deter them from unloading on social media. This connects to the main April topic of the role the leader plays in creating the right environment for followers to flourish.
Click here for a full list of titles and sources from the March archive and remember to check the leadership in the news section everyday where daily articles on leadership are posted.