On the McKinsey leadership model for women

This summer in Silicon Valley saw a lot of conversation about the quality of visibility women now enjoy here.

While many women and the companies they lead or help to manage work invisibly to produce — and thus contribute to the community at large — they do so without calling attention to their gender.  Some prefer it that way and mark it as a sign that women are finally integrating seamlessly into management ranks.  I tend to be one of these people, and most of the women I respect are.

Then we have the segment of women at work who want to flex muscle in the limelight.  This ranges from provocative dress to provocative behavior.  On the way to workplace equality, they have taken a detour.  In the worst misplaced person scenarios, they get used by the folks I call the master bloggers.  These are the boys who have achieved some success and even more of a following — thanks mainly to what I believe is their desire to act out and outrageously, validating the geek myth of socially inept males finally getting some attention.  We are patiently waiting for this to get old.

Meanwhile, THE MCKINSEY QUARTERLY featured an article on how talented women thrive in business, based on research the consulting firm just completed.  As I read the article, it struck me that the leadership model McKinsey articulates — based upon interviewing women in leadership positions — is something every organization should consider for their executive teams. It's also something every person should consider as he or she shapes a career.

McKinsey calls it "centered leadership" and identifies five dimensions:  meaning, managing energy, positive framing, connecting and engaging.

Of great interest, too, are what McKinsey calls the pre-conditions for success of the centered leadership model:  intelligence, tolerance for change, desire to lead and communication skills.

What's significant for women here?  As we have injected gender balance into management ranks, we also have delivered a more useful, productive approach to leading people.  We are adding depth.  This is not just about the female perspective — this is about adding value via skills developed in the background, out of the limelight, from time served in the ranks and lessons learned through sharp powers of observation.

The McKinsey centered leadership model is something we in Silicon Valley must study as we build our companies from the ground up.  Startups and small businesses everywhere have more leverage than ever to improve the model for running companies.  I hope Silicon Valley will become headquarters for centered leadership.  And Ground Zero for responsible communication via the social media invented here. 

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