e-book Versatility, A Prerequisite for Leadership Success

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In my experience doing executive teaching at Vanderbilt and as an advisor and strategic thinking partner to executives, leadership versatility is the big differentiating factor, the common thread, we see in the best of the best across industries. That said, what is leader versatility? More importantly, how is it developed and deepened? The good news: much is known about leadership versatility as a mind set and a set of skills and competencies. At present, executive search firms are mapping this terrain.

They help pinpoint core strengths leaders have and gap area. Leader versatility involves leaders being both forceful and facilitative, courageous and humble, the ability to learn in real time, requires advanced know how in leading change initiatives, the ability to collaborate across organization boundaries, and deep skill in energizing people and accelerating talent development.

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All these are mission critical. In fact, what is interesting here is the fact that these leadership tasks are inter-related. Our first executive: CT is the president of a mature industrial products business. A leader with a deep action orientation, decisive, comfortable with ambiguity, able to attract A-players. The business task he faces is leading a turnaround. Responsible for all U.


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A leader skilled at selecting talent, people management, collaboration, and leading change. The business task she faces is revitalizing a successful and mature company and leveraging their brand equity and building new capabilities digital marketing. Two very different leaders in two very different contexts.

There has been clear progress over the years, but the authors believe it has stalled. The report cites that there are 79 women for every men promoted to manager. The authors of the report think not and recommend more affirmative action. I believe that neither the issue nor the solution is named properly, e.

During the past summer, Patty Beach and her husband, Roger Toennis, spent a weekend at my lake house in Alaska.


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Patty runs a consulting company called LeadershipSmarts. Patty and Roger have co-opted the word Versatility to describe humans and human systems that value and intentionally leverage masculine and feminine strengths. These strengths also called energy are collectively referred to as archetypes and exist independent of gender. Examples of masculine archetypes include competitiveness, assertiveness and rationality, compared to feminine archetypes of patience, consideration and compassion. Both men and women have masculine and feminine archetypal strengths.

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However, we oftentimes unconsciously value one way of being over the other. Patty and Roger believe that most business environments reward masculine strengths and under appreciate feminine strengths, but the bias varies depending on the dominant cultural archetype in an organization. That is, even organizations with good gender diversity can end up with a dominant culture that is either too masculine or too feminine. In such organizations, this bias can inadvertently shut down and out employees based on their archetypal energy, regardless of their gender.

The concept of balanced masculine and feminine energy is not new. Ancient Chinese Taoist philosophy emphasizes that a balance of Yin Feminine and Yang Masculine energy is key to success and harmony.

Leadership Versatility | Every Leaders' Prerequisite for Success | Wilson Learning Worldwide

Nearly years ago Swiss psychiatrist and psychoanalyst, Carl Jung, described the Anima as the feminine dimension of the male psyche, and Animus as the masculine dimension of the female psyche. Jung believed that these hidden dimensions of our selves exist in our subconsciousness as sources of repressed energy.

Jung theorized that accepting these repressed parts of our selves is a path to psychological health and wellbeing. A Versatile organization leader is one that who values feminine and masculine strengths and seeks to leverage them as positive sources of power and energy. The point being that women can be equally rational and competitive as men, and men can be equally inclusive and compassionate as women.

The challenge is that men and women can feel pressured to suppress their masculine or feminine strengths in order to conform to the dominant culture in an organization. Moreover, we often judge those that do not fit the cultural norm for their gender. For more information see versatilityfactor.

Leadership versatility skills continue to be in high demand

Here are a couple of examples to illustrate the point. I must have suppressed my feminine energy in order to fit into that culture. The pervasiveness of our unconscious archetypal energy bias was made even more poignant for me during the October congressional testimony of Christine Blasey Ford and Bret Kavanaugh regarding her allegations of sexual harassment. My wife and I watched the entire eight-hour hearing. Christine testified first and after she finished, we agreed that she was believable. Some journalists suggested that each had been coached extensively. She appeared, frightened, fragile, emotional, and vulnerable; and she needed the support of an attorney on each side of her.

He was angry, confrontational, defiant, evidentiary, self-supported, but also emotional and vulnerable. Interestingly, if their behaviors were reversed, neither would have been seen as credible.