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New Zealand is privileged to have a rich history of women leaders who made a difference. Historically, New Zealand was the first country to give women the right to vote. I'm thinking of Silvia Cartwright the governor general of New Zealand, Helen Clark, elected Prime Minister of New Zealand (1999), and Kate Sheppard who fought for women's equality. There have been women progressing in every field, this pictures that women in New Zealand have better prospects than other countries. Sadly once the data is analysed it shows that women's participation in the senior management level has been stalled. New Zealand's future depends on people who can lead others to success. The aim of this paper is to understand the context of leadership and the sexes. This paper focuses on the constraints women face in leadership and how they can be trained to take over from men the position of leadership. I will also focus on what women leaders do and how can future women leaders in New Zealand learn from their experiences.
Introduction to leadership: A long history.
The word, 'Lead' originates from the Latin word"agree" which means to set something into action.(Jennings 1960). The Anglo-Saxon word origins from "leadere" relates to people on a journey.(Boman/Deal 1991). However in the twenty first century, a leader is someone who sets his ideas, individuals and organisations on a journey and to direct this journey one requires determination, courage, and vision.
Leadership is one of the recent topic most talked about in the organisations. It is not a top down process but it also can be implemented indirectly, or in a down-up pattern throughout the organisation. It is an influencing process (Hunt, 2004) Leadership is not about the position, it is about the action, vision and courage. Like in every home, the mother is a leader. She leads a home, honestly, with love, and care. However today women are entering the workforce but there has been a sudden fall in women representing the senior management level. This 'Glass ceiling' is often cited as a major reason for such a fall. (Judith Pringle et al 2000). A study shows that in 188 companies in New Zealand, the percentage of women employees in the junior management was fifty four percent, in the middle management this percentage further reduced to thirty eight percent and eight percent in the top management level. (McGregor et al; 1994) . However there are a few constraints for women's participation in leadership which will be discussed further. In spite of these constraints women in New Zealand are heading their way up to reach the skies because of the efforts taken by a few training and development organisations to build future leaders of New Zealand.
In today's twenty first century future women leaders must think of the global platform to make them stand out from the past leaders. There are important factors of global leadership, firstly thinking globally: past leaders focussed on the leading local community groups. They must be conscious of the impact of globalisation. Sharing Leadership: There should be a two way contribution and sharing and less one way direction with future leaders. They should also appreciate cross cultural diversity. (Goldsmith & Marshall 2009)
The following figure shows the current participation of women in different field at top level
University Professors and Associate Professors.
New Zealand Police.
National executive -Trade Unions.
Source: Human rights Commission: New Zealand Census of Women's Participation in different fields.(2008)The figure shows that a number of women in all fields have increased; therefore there is a need to cultivate women's leadership talent. Many Scholars suggest that to develop as leader women must identify question, and restore the old practices with modern policies and practices.
Do Women have to become men to get ahead?
Micheal Gurian (2008) in his book "leadership and the sexes" talks about how female and male brains are smart but in different ways and this difference affect the work life. Men tend to show more physical abilities in their leadership styles. The female brain is more active while the male brain usually tends to rest. Men tend to focus on a specific task while women are good at multi tasking. In leadership, Men are more aggressive which helps in leadership roles while similarly women are good at building rapport which is helpful at the same time. Hence having a balance of both can be very influential.
There are certain constraints that pull back women from reaching the top levels. One main constraint is based on the principle that women need to behave like men to move ahead in the organisation. But however research shows that women who behave like men are not well accepted by their peers at the top. (Broughton & Miller, 2009) Yet women who display female behaviour at the top are alleged that they are not suitable for the top job. As Hilary Clinton, said "doing what the boys do" does not help in the long run. From her experience she lost the US presidential voting in 2008, because she was trying to be a man. However after which she implemented a different style. (The Economist 2009).
Women can adopt different leadership styles and become equally successful leaders, but how can women reach the top? The answer is to be successful leaders women need to leverage the differences rather than behaving like men. They must adopt their own positive style to move forward. (Paul Vanderbroeck, 2010).
Rear Admiral Margaret Kline who climbed the corporate ladder in the US Navy, having achieved that position in an organisation which is dominated by men, she adopted a discrete leadership style. She believed that not many men would be pleased about her maternal style of leadership which includes demanding and nurturing, for her male assistants she said, "Think of me as your mother in uniform". (Tyson 2009)
Training in leadership development:
Transformational learning in Women's Leadership development training:
Women's leadership development training provides women learners to develop their sense of individual agency in their leadership roles. Transformational learning is about involving the trainee rationally and psychologically and changes the trainee's assumptions so that the learner experiences a permanent progress in understanding and behaviour. This provides the learner with a sense of identity.(Kegan 2000). The learner is provided with a set of ideas and in order to tackle leadership challenges, however the learner may be faced with problems while achieving a certain goal and in this process the learner may be frustrated, such an incident will trigger a transformational learning process. (Debebe, G. (2009). Bennis(2003) stated that what makes a leader different from others is that by learning from experiences , the leader makes himself/herself unique.
Mezirow (2000) developed a four stage model; this framework was developed in order to have an insight of transformational training and leadership development. The following figure shows:
Articulating a leadership Dilemma
Achieveing Transformative insight.
Connecting insight to leadership Practice.
The above figure shows that, when a leader runs into a leadership dilemma, the learner has to use the emotional and intellectual side and generate conditions for making meaning. When such a challenge arises it provokes the learner to seek new information in order to overcome the challenges. This directs the learner to the 3rdlevel of achieving a transformational insight. Once this insight is attained by the Woman leader it helps her learn more from her experiences which is a permanent learning and the rising Woman leader must connect her learning with her leadership practice through a budding change in thinking and acting. (Mezirow 2000).
From the above four stage model it is understood that transformational learning is relevant to women's leadership development training, and how these practice are used in a formal training location. Eagly & Carli (2007) states that women never part with the ideas that were previously learnt and which gives them a sense of control.
According to Debebe, G. (2009) organisations must focus on women's leadership development training. With such training programs organisations can profit from those who offer new ideas from their learning. While trainers can use this framework, of transformational learning in designing training programs for future women leaders. For example trainers can encourage women to connect their learning and transformational insight from the training program to their workplace. Hence in women leadership development programs transformational learning must be linked with self awareness and initiative to change to face challenges.
Gautam, M. (2005) states that women are not informed during leadership trainings about a few things when it comes to leadership:
â- Firstly the policy for men and women are not the same. Men are appreciated and valued for being aggressive on the other hand women are criticized for the same behaviour.
â- Women are excluded during certain informal activities like playing a game of golf where sometimes important decisions may be made.
â- They are not authorized to act powerfully. Women need to be prepared to take more than one path to achieve their goals.
â- To be a successful leader one does not have to be a intelligent. But it is the talent to implement the simple ideas with integrity.
â- Women are born leaders , like they lead and direct their family.
â- Women leaders may have a uncomfortable and bumpy ride and learn to face the challenges like generally women who do not have children are promoted easily.
The following diagram shows the how women think about leadership it shows the strengths and weakness.
I like to lead group projects.
I am stronger than most girls I know
I enjoy athletics and physical activity.
My friends know me as a leader.
I consider myself strong.
I am destined to be a leader.
I consider myself to be introvert
I look forward to challenges.
I am destined to be a leader.
I consider myself shy and quiet in a social setting.
I am just a girl so I am not that strong.
Source: Ward et al(2009) College student leaders: Meet the Alpha Female. Journal of Educational Leadership, 7, 100-117.
Sakey (2006) talks about women leaders need to have soft skills such as conflict resolution and effective listening. She says it's the role of women mentors to develop female leaders. Keohane, Nannerl O.(1991) shares that educating women for leadership is important right from their childhood. Traditionally young girls are treated differently to the boys, girls are trained to be more obedient, sensitive and less aggressive. They are not trained that leadership should be a part of their ambition. Hence it is necessary to prepare women to tackle with the challenges and leadership development programs will give them a sense of self confidence.
Three Wise Women: Celebrating Leadership in New Zealand
New Zealanders are acknowledged for their integrity, sincerity and transparency. Hence they stand tall in the eyes of the world as leaders. The Administrator of United Nations Development Programme and Natalie Miedema Antarctica Youth Ambassador developed their leadership skills in New Zealand and have now stepped on the world stage. New Zealanders believe in developing business leaders, through tertiary education.
Three wise women from different parts of New Zealand Jane Huria, Hon. Fran Wilde, and Alison Paterson said that leaders in New Zealand society are extensive and diverse. Alison Paterson said that it is not necessary that a leader has to be a chairman of a company a leader could be individuals who sit comfortably around an oak table in a cottage than a boardroom. She says that New Zealand women have a lot of talent but they need a good training program to transform them into an asset. Huria exclaims that one cannot be a leader unless they identify what value they are going to offer. And Wilde says that women locally situated can be leaders of a community if they have incredible power for change.
While New Zealand has a number of training institutes like YWCA delivers free mentoring and leadership course to develop young women to grow to be leaders. It has been mentoring future women leaders for the last nine years for young women who have the potential to be leaders. Other initiative in New Zealand for encouraging women leaders, The New Zealand Women in Leadership (NZWIL) mentors women leaders.
Men and women have different leadership styles. And organisations should be familiar with this difference. If they do not recognise them then it may have a bad impact on the development of women leaders, they may go in the wrong direction. Due to which women are stopped from moving to the top. However talented women can learn and build up their leadership skills that will help them grow in their distinctive ways. From the above it can be concluded that transformational learning for women can encourage them to take on critical reflection by evaluating their experiences from the leadership point of view.
Organisations need to recruit women leaders at the top levels in order to have a balance. They also need to modernize their talent management practices such as leadership development framework and succession planning. Women should be given an opportunity to enhance their career and participate in the senior levels at the same time enabling them to perform to their highest capabilities. With women as leaders, men may be more open to bring their emotional and loving side to the leadership table. On the other hand it is the duty of the present women leaders to guide the future women leaders and be a role model to them. The future women leaders must find out tools and resources and ask superiors and ask tips for success. However power to change and self awareness are the key factors.
New Women and New Leadership is a hot topic these days, leadership qualities which are essential in the twenty first century- inclusiveness, empathy, ability to build negotiates and ability to build consensus are commonly found in women. They are redefining leadership, by taking a stand not on global issues and not on women issues. The things that hold women back from stepping on to a leader's role like gender stereotypes, sexual harassment, or and requirement for being flexible to work due to family commitments yet today, increasing number of women are breaking the barriers and this number will continue to increase and the level of playing field for men and women will be even. With such a progress I look at women leaders just like apples on the trees, the best apples are on the top of the tree like a crown, most men do not want to reach for the best ones as they are scared of falling down. Instead they select apples which are a bit lower and aren't so good, these best apples think that something is wrong with them. Until the right man who has the courage to reach out to them they do not realise how amazing they are!