Connecting with the outside world is what makes the difference between a good manager and a great leader

Human Resources

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On May 19th, 50 female leaders gathered at Antwerp Management School for the third network event run by Straffe Madammen Club and Stella P. Its attendees all intend to use their extensive professional experience within other organizations and take on future roles as board advisors. 20 percent of the female participants of the first 2 events in 2016 now hold an active board position. 

Elke 3.pngWhat makes a good board member? And how does that differ from being a good manager? During our co-creation session, we got some interesting answers. Offering an external viewpoint came up several times as one of the key ingredients for a successful board. Challenge, challenge, and challenge again. It is impossible to futureproof your company if you don’t bring in the views of your customers, regulators, and other stakeholders that impact your success. This is one of the reasons why ensuring diversity in leadership, both in management teams and on boards of directors is so important.

“In sameness we connect, in differences we grow”

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The ability of leaders to adapt to increasingly rapidly-changing environments is also highlighted in the brand-new book on leadership by Professors Jesse Segers and Koen Marichal that was presented a couple of days after our female leaders event. They offer 19 thoughts on futureproof leadership. These are 3 elements that resonated most with me:

  • the evolution from a top-down approach to a model of shared leadership, bringing on board a diverse spectrum of views, connecting with external stakeholders and daring to challenge the status quo; 
  • the need to take up a more entrepreneurial, even activist role to make a real difference. Connect silos within the organization, lead by example and help your organization to fail forward; 
  • the capacity to become almost invisible, the main ingredients of leadership are the rest of the team, your role is to bring people together and inspire them to collaborate in a world of technology.

'75 percent of managers have no clue about what's happening outside their company'

Masterclass Leadership 6.jpgHermina Ibarra, Professor of Leadership at INSEAD also stressed the importance of the outside-in view during her Master Class for Antwerp Management School and HR Square in Brussels earlier this month. Many leaders have a hard time engaging with people outside their comfort zone, offering new insights and ideas. Most leaders focus on getting better at what they are already good at, whereas dealing with constant change is the reality of modern leadership. They need to move from a hub role to a bridging role. ‘The vision thing’ as she calls it, i.e. real strategic thinking and doing, only gets done when you bring the outside world inside. And that’s harder for women, as she outlines in this article.

Build a BCD network

While we are naturally attracted to people who are similar to ourselves, we actually need to do just the opposite, i.e. connect with people that are different. A good “BCD” network (breadth, connectivity and dynamic) is what makes the difference between a good manager and a great leader. So, start building that network of diverse stakeholders to stay ahead of the game.

Elke 2.pngTwo tips from Prof. Ibarra: Don’t just attend network events, take on an active role: speak, chair or organize.  And renew your dormant ties, the people you once worked with can give twice as many new insights to your projects as your current ties, adding great value to your leadership. What are you waiting for? I would be happy to help. The diversity of people in the Straffe Madammen is exactly the reason why almost 2000 women from over 1000 organizations have joined the network over the past years.

What is preventing women from really reaching the top?