Sunday, March 21, 2010

Can a Woman Leader Be Successful and Happy?

While I'm on vacation, here's a guest post by John Hersey. I'll bet the title at least got your attention.

Many, women and men, believe they can’t. Equally, many have experienced failure while trying, but there is indeed a way for women leaders to be successful and happy.

The question is: What makes women happy? A team of researchers spent five years looking for the answer to this question. After this time, they discovered why successful women are as much excellent professionals as excellent in life.

They talked to more than one hundred extraordinary women worldwide who have managed to uphold happy families and also leadership careers in every kind of field, from orchestra conducting to espionage, and who state that they are deeply satisfied with the choices they have made.

Based on their research, the team discovered 3 practices that these women follow that, when combined, become a winning formula, and are all aspects that we can control:

1. They have a passion
One of the most important characteristics the researchers found is that these women are prominent because they are doing something they see as significant.

Some women simply know what makes them happy and chase after it since they are very young, like a Nigerian lawyer who was inspired by a TV show when she was a child and didn’t stop until she was able to establish her own law firm. For others, the road towards the discovery of what makes them happy sets them free to find passion in new ways, like a consultant who dumped a profitable career her parents had chosen for her to follow her dream of making movies.

Finding their passion gave these women the strength to turn into individuals that make things happen, instead of waiting for others to decide about their lives. Being able to do this fills you with a kind of energy that moves from work to home and vice versa, making everything right, and rewarding.

2. They see obstacles as opportunities
These women are realistic, they are able to analyze the evidence and act accordingly. Women are very often labeled as emotional extremists, vulnerable to feelings of failure when confronted with problems, but it is possible to turn things around consciously and take care of any issue for what it is.

3. They bond with others
Being emotional is, in fact, a strength of successful women. Women leaders are able to bond with people, and through these deep relationships, they get a feeling of being in the right place. By acknowledging the individuals around them, they are able to boost and speed up their personal growth.

The research showed that women who follow these practices are happier and more successful in their jobs, as leaders, and in their lives.

Every company should be aiming to get and keep these women leaders; they are strongly capable of steering leadership performance and action by creating meaning and might, by outlining circumstances to find the best way out, by channeling the force of comprehensiveness and total commitment, and by dynamically directing energy flows.

These women are powerful and happy because they assumed control of their lives, and anyone can do the same, regardless of ambiguity, chance, or any stress they may be experiencing.

John Hersey
John Hersey is a successful business owner, published author and motivational leadership speaker. John writes one of the most recognized leadership blogs in the business world:


Anonymous said...

Hi John and happy holiday to Dan;-)

thanks for touching topic of women leadership.

I agree, that main thing is to truly discover one's passion and then simply live it everyday. It works and is essential regardless of gender.

And it ain't (at least for me) about acquiring control over life, but rather surrendering to the flow of events and adventures which living one's passion brings.
Leadership journey is so unpredictable, so alive, so bumpy and that is what is so attractive for many to pursue life in this authentic way;-)

cheers from Slovakia

El Biddulph said...

Thank you for acknowledging that women can be happy and successful *because* of their strengths rather than *in spite* of them.

As far as women have come, I still find leadership authors taking a "woe is woman" approach. I feel the exact opposite is true. We have more choices today than ever. If it is happiness and success we want, it is available to us.

And, as leaders, we can demonstrate to all - women and men - what it means to appreciate another human being for who they are and what they bring to the table. Isn't that what leadership is all about, anyway? The three practices you wrote about are key to that outcome.

motivational leadrership said...

I agree, undoubtedly, women leaders can be successful. It's true that they see obstacles as opportunities, women are passionate, they easily make bonds with others and they are committed to their work. Leadership qualities can be seen in women as they assume control of their lives.

Anne Perschel aka@bizshrink said...

Spot On.

Perhaps sooner, rather than later, companies will stop spending the bulk of money and time fixing/teaching women how to be successful and instead focus on removing structural and cultural obstacles.

From a woman, a leader, a researcher on women's leadership, and an unstoppable force advancing women leaders.

Anne Perschel aka @bizshrink

Beverly Belury and John Hersey said...

thank you all for your thoughtful comments. For 20 years I have observed my business partner, dearest friend and wife work diligently, everyday, at being happy and successful. It is not about gender, it is about focus and commitment.
Be Well,

Noel R said...

John, thanks for your excellent guest post on “Great Leadership!” I feel like the majority of articles/blogs articles on professional women dwell on whether or not the “mommy track” affects their careers, if women can have it all, and if women actually get as much respect as their male colleauges. It was great to read something positive about what women executives can uniquely bring to the table. Your insight will keep me coming back to your blog!

Heath Davis Havlick said...

Good post, but I take issue with this part: "Every company should be aiming to get and keep these women leaders." I'm a woman, but it seems sexist to me to intentionally seek out a group of people to hire based on gender. I do understand the overall point of the phrase, though; women have not been held in equal regard and they should be. Yes, true; but two wrongs don't make a right and seeking out great women just because they're women is still discriminatory. As these women who were interviewed prove, cream always rises to the top. Great "women" leaders are great leaders who just so happen to be women. Thanks for drawing attention to this topic!

Dan McCarthy said...

Thanks for all of the responses to John’s guest post. Great comments too! I hate it when the guest host does so well. (-: