We receive so much valuable content from our
customers, partners and internal subject-matter experts. On Thursdays, we
thought it would be fun to do a “throw back” and bring back an older post that
was valuable to our audience. Today’s throw back is about gender-specific
courses: Are they really the best way of encouraging female leadership?
By Kevin Young
Good leaders are essential for
making any business tick, and the social unrest in various countries is a
timely reminder of this.
It’s a commonly held misconception
that leaders are born not made, when in fact a well-structured leadership
program can deliver fantastic results. But news that schools such as Harvard Business School, IMD in Switzerland and Ceibs
in Shanghai are now advocating female-only leadership courses seems an odd
These gender-specific courses do
sound like an excellent way to elevate women to the higher echelons of a
business, but a similar strategy across the board would deliver even more
impressive results. More to the point, should tomorrow’s leaders still be defined
by their gender?
Admittedly, more does need to be
done to provide women with the opportunities and tools to take on leadership
roles. If you ask a person to name male leaders you’ll quickly hear a list
across a spectrum of business, politics and education – Steve Jobs, Sam Walton,
Martin Luther King Jr., Winston Churchill, Nelson Mandela – their names have
become synonymous with great leadership.
But flip the question around, and
the names do not come quite so quickly. The recent history of memorable female
leaders isn’t quite so apparent.
Nonetheless, a gender-specific
strategy is not the best resolution to this problem. In order to have a
successful business, as well as a harmonious society, companies should be
cultivating a cultural fabric of equality, including training the right person
for the job, regardless of gender.
The good news is the skills needed
to become an excellent leader are entirely teachable irrespective of gender.
With the right training program there is nothing to stop the women in your
business from smashing those glass ceilings – without resorting to a gender
There is no doubt that the
intentions behind these specifically-tailored courses are entirely well
founded, but if the world persists in underlining the fundamental differences
between men and women, those same differences will continue to act as a
roadblock to a cohesive and balanced work environment.
Training should be gender neutral
and accessible to everyone, just as opportunities within business should be.
For those who would naturally classify themselves as followers not leaders,
it’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking leadership simply isn’t for you,
and it is true that certain personalities take to leadership more naturally
However, this is not to say that the
leader within everyone cannot be found and developed. Most people can turn
their hand to anything in an academic sense, but a leadership training program
must also focus on teaching the soft skills which are so essential for the
successful management of people.
Essentially, having a number of good
leaders within your company is fantastically good for business. Staff members
who are led by managers with excellent communication skills, a sense of
authority and a knack for delegation are more engaged and productive. The
bottom line is the better trained your staff, the better your output.
In this current climate, leadership
development is more important than ever before. Economic and global pressures
force organizations to do more at a faster pace, often with fewer resources.
But make sure you are choosing the right training program. Segregation, no
matter how well intended, does not always offer the best results. If your
eventual aim is to train your female leaders to be at the top of their game,
they need to be trained using the same system and respect as their peers.
Choosing the right method of staff
development is a fundamentally important decision – so make sure you do your
talent justice by putting in place a development culture which is fair and
effective for everyone.