Change the Face of Leadership

Dr. Cathy Greenberg: Welcome to Leadership Development News, Profiles and practices of top performers, co-hosted by me, Dr. Cathy Greenberg, and my co-host, Dr. Relly Nadler.

We are very excited to continue on the venture here today by featuring two exceptional women leaders in consulting. Jennifer McCollum who has visited with us before. She is the CEO of Linkage and her colleague, Susie Kelleher, Vice President of Consulting.

As we go through the program today, both Jennifer and Susie will talk to us about how they oversee the strategic direction and global operations and consulting of this Boston, Massachusetts-based leadership development firm.

Of course, Jennifer has led and grown leadership development businesses at CEB (now Gartner) and Korn Ferry, where my buddy, CEO, Gary Burnison is just a fantastic leader. In addition to running her own leadership consulting firm, Susie is head of consulting and leads all training and delivery of their solutions across the globe. She has been a healthcare provider, a sales consultant, a people leader, a coach, and a consultant. She’s combined over 50 years of experience and deep expertise in designing and delivering leadership solutions along with Jennifer in leading teams within the business.

They are both frequent speakers and consultants with the mission to change the face of leadership.

As you know, I’m a big fan of Linkage. I was a speaker at Linkage for several of their women in leadership programs and launched my first New York Times best-selling book there, What Happy Women Know and What Happy Working Mothers Know.

Linkage has dedicated more than 30 years to improving leadership effectiveness and equity, that’s an important point for today, in certainly hundreds of global organizations. Linkage provides solutions to accelerate purposeful leadership, which we are going to expand on today, advancing women leaders and creating cultures of inclusion using assessments, training, coaching, consulting, and conferences. Relly and I are big advocates of using assessments in training and coaching.

In our prior episodes, we shared with Jennifer’s help, the Linkage Purposeful Leadership Model. For those of you that haven’t listened to those shows yet, please go out and download them, listen to them, there’s great content.

Just to touch upon those subjects, we talked about how Linkage has studied what the best leaders do with data from 1 million leaders and they developed the Purposeful Leadership Model which provides for a very important formula that leaders who generate the best results, not only align their personal purpose to the organizational direction, but they use it to fulfill five specific commitments, and this is so important:

  1. To inspire
  2. Engage
  3. Innovate
  4. Achieve and
  5. Become

In our second show, we talked to Jennifer and another colleague about how advancing women leaders across industries can underscore business success.

As you all know, in our prior shows, we talked about how Linkage has changed. Linkage has historically addressed the challenge of advancing women leaders, surfacing specific hurdles that women face and the key competencies that are required to overcome them.

In fact, for the last 20 years, Linkage has been known for its dynamic, interactive conferences in person. But their flagship Women’s Leadership Institute was available virtually, from November 9 – 12, 2020, with all of the same knowledge, experience, and interactive exercises. The 4-day leadership experience was designed specifically for women leaders at all levels and it includes best-selling author Glennon Doyle, broadcasting legend, Soledad O’Brien, Wall Street star Carla Harris, trailblazing sports agent Molly Fletcher, and more.

In addition to what is going on there, they have master classes, and learning teams and they do many different assessments including a 360, which we all need.

Today we are going to build on these topics. Across the last year, Linkage isolated specific, inclusive leadership behaviors and found that they correlate effectively to purposeful leadership, including inclusion as a proxy for effective leadership.

Dr. Relly Nadler: Jennifer, do you want to start us off? We have been talking about DNI for a decade, diversity, and inclusion, so why continue our focus on this today?

Jennifer McCollum: Thank you Relly and thank you Cathy for such a lovely introduction. I have so enjoyed working with you all over the last few months as we continue the important conversations of effective leadership, inclusive leadership, and now importantly, the advancement of women in all underrepresentation Cathy mentioned, and I’m going to start with the big picture.

With Linkage’s mission, which is to change the face of leadership, we take that very seriously, but it actually has two different meanings. The first is the figurative meaning and that’s about changing perception about what effective leadership is. More and more we are surfacing the critical role of inclusion as it relates to effective leadership.

The second definition is really more literal. We are all about leadership equity which means helping women and other underrepresented populations rise in leadership roles.

So, as Cathy mentioned in the introduction, we have been doing this hard work across the last thirty years; Studying leaders, to answer the question, what is it the most effective leaders do? And studying the advancement of women to figure out how to really crack this significant problem of underrepresentation in leadership.

So, you asked the question, Relly. We have been talking about DNI for a decade, why continue our focus on this? It is actually really simple; Because we are not making enough progress.

We know, this has been really well studied, and we know the business imperative for organizations. We know that companies in the top quartile for ethnic and cultural diversity are thirty-five percent more likely to post better financial performance. They’re also more likely to create decision-making that is both faster as well as more innovative. The teams will be much more highly performing if they are diverse teams.

But here is the problem; What we have been doing across the last decade is simply not working. There has been an estimated eight billion dollars a year spent on this problem from things like setting diversity targets, and unconscious bias training, to employee resource groups. This is even before the impacts of the covid crisis as well as the black lives matter crisis.

So, at Linkage, we – and again with the recent death of Ruth Bader Ginsburg – we are absolutely committed to continuing to carry this torch. Because here are some difficult statistics; if you look at every level of government, from the President to the Vice President to the Senates of the House, it is seventy-five to one hundred percent white depending on what role of government you are looking at.

When you look at military advisors, a hundred percent white.

When you look at federal judges, when you look at media, when you look at television, it is ninety-nine percent men, ninety-five percent white.

In order to move this needle, we have to do different things. That is why we continue to focus on it at Linkage, to really provide that road map.

That is what we are going to be talking about today. What do we as leaders need to do? And, what do we as organizations need to do?

Dr. Cathy Greenberg: Perfect. Thank you, Jennifer, wow. Very compelling.

Talk more deeply on inclusion and topics that have reached every corporate board room as a result of the most recent social crisis.

Dr. Relly Nadler: Susie, we wanted to ask you, from your expertise and I imagine this is a good question that comes up.

So, what is the difference between diversity and inclusion?

Susie Kelleher: Yeah. Thank you for the question. Thank you for that and for the introduction. I am very happy to be here. Thank you for the invitation.

So, there is a really big and important difference here. Diversity is largely about representation in demographics. And as Jenn just spoke to, we don’t have a great representation when it comes from a diversity standpoint in many of our really important decision-making bodies within the United States.

But inclusion is really about leveraging that diverse talent and fostering an environment that recognizes everybody’s different perspectives and the contributions they can make. Even when those are very different than our own or what has formerly been valued in an organization.

That is really the key.

Verna Mires is an inclusion strategist. She has been known to say, diversity is inviting everybody to the party, but inclusion is really being asked to dance. What I would add to that because this is where I see the most difficulty with organizations; it is not only being asked to dance but being able to dance with your own style. Even if that is very different from others and for that style to be recognized, celebrated, and pulled out of you.

The metaphor, I think, makes it a little too simple because it is actually a really big struggle. The inclusion for the majority group, we don’t like different. When we see differences, we want to like it, we say that we want diversity but as humans when people show up different than the assimilated norm, it is actually really uncomfortable to us. Our brain sees it as a threat.

People don’t realize that this is happening and how hard it is.

So, when you look at many organizations and leaders today, it is a very homogenous group. When they see people who are different, it is a struggle for inclusion to really work inside organizations.

But the companies that are doing it well, are really outperforming those who aren’t.

Listen to the entire interview above by clicking on the play button.

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