Women concerned about their leadership development should focus on task rather than be held back by gender discussions.
This is according to Frances Hesselbein, former chief executive officer (CEO) of the Girl Scouts of the USA, who told Forbes that diversity in gender, race, culture and background brings much-needed strength to organisations around the world.
“Focus on task (the work we do), not gender. Move beyond the old assumptions, practices, and language that can be barriers to equal access,” she explained.
“One barrier is placing women in a special category of gender.”
Ms Hesselbein, who is a founding CEO of management guru Peter Drucker’s Leader to Leader Institute, said it is also important not to use the terms ‘female leaders’ or ‘women leaders’.
“We are leaders who are women. As leaders who are women we begin by acknowledging that we bring a special dimension to the work of our organisation,” she stated.
The CEO, a recipient of 22 honorary degrees, argued that gender brings strength to an individual’s contribution to a corporate mission, whether they are male or female.
Discussing her own rise to success, Ms Hesselbein said it was down to two factors: an ability to listen and punctuality.
Listening is about respect, she commented, it shows appreciation and is an important characteristic in leaders.
Being on time also enabled her to meet Peter Drucker at a reception when they were the only two guests to arrive when the event started.
She cited three leadership role models: Abraham Lincoln, US Army general Lloyd Austin III and her grandmother.
Her grandmother taught her respect, she explained, while Lincoln was great in a crisis and General Austin is an excellent communicator.
Offering advice to up and coming leaders of this generation, Ms Hesselbein said: “Practice self-awareness, self-evaluation and self-improvement.”