How Women Lead: A book review by Bob Morris

How Women Lead: The 8 Essential Strategies Successful Women Know 
Sharon Hadary and Laura Henderson
McGraw-Hill (2013)

What all of us can learn from the strategies that women use to achieve success
Actually, the eight strategies that Sharon Hadary and Laura Henderson identify and discuss in this volume can (with only minor modification) help almost anyone to achieve success. They are only indirectly gender-specific and validated by more than 20 years of research that involved thousands of women in all manner of organizations. Hadary and Henderson address three separate but related, critically important questions:

1. What differentiates women who have attained senior-level executive positions from those who haven’t?
2. What can women who aspire to attain those positions learn from the experiences of others?
3. How to close the current gaps and eliminate the current barriers?

Of special interest to me is the biographical material about Hadary and Henderson (their stories are provided in Pages xv-xvi) as well as what they learned (and now share) from 14 C-level women whose experiences, insights, concerns are woven within the lively as well as eloquent narrative. These women refused to “wait for the system to fix itself,” speak frankly about the formidable challenges, used the eight strategies effectively, and now do all they can to help other women to achieve success, however they may define it. They represent a remarkably diverse group of organizations that include Pfizer Worldwide Research, Four Seasons Hotels & Resorts, IBM, Office Depot, and Medical Services Corps of the U.S. Army.

These are among the dozens of passages that caught my eye:

o   Realize Women’s Leadership Styles Have a Foundation in Science (Pages 11-13)
o   Design Your Work Around Your Life (38-39)
o   Choose the Right Place to Work (49-55)
o   Be Your Strongest Advocate (73-85)
o   Create Networks of Advocates and Allies (86-100)
o   Make Business Acumen a High Priority (107-120
o   Create a Culture of Success (131-139)
o   Integrate Your Life; Balance Is a Myth (145-164)
o   Women Reaching Up and Reaching Back (169-176)
o   Be Open to Serendipity (182-184)

Those who doubt the bottom-line impact and value of women in senior-level executive positions need to understand how and why the U.S. gross domestic product is about 25% higher than it would have been without the influx of women in the C-suite. Here is a brief excerpt from the Introduction:

“We now have solid studies that prove that corporations with women in leadership positions are surpassing other companies in profitability. In the last few years, headlines from around the world have proclaimed the impact of women in leadership on corporate results: ‘Link between Women and Corporate Profitability,’ ‘Gender Performance: A Corporate Performance Driver,’ and ‘Firms with More Women in Charge Faring Better in Economic Crisis.’ For the first time in history, there is research showing that companies with more women in high-level positions report better financial performance than those with fewer women at these levels. The results are astounding.”

However different the 14 interviewees as well as Sharon Hadary and Lauren Henderson may be in most respects, all of them are talented, motivated, and resilient, to be sure, but are also determined to be more than pioneers. They measure their own success in terms of how many others they can help to achieve theirs.

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