THE BLOG

Why Connectivity is Creating a New Class of Female Leaders

11/24/2011 05:36 pm ET | Updated Jan 24, 2012

We are witnessing a shift in the nature of leadership. The command and control structures we have inherited from traditional leadership are making way for styles characterised more by empathy, partnership and collaboration than by ego. This new breed of connectivity will be an increasingly valued skill for organisations in the future and is an enormous opportunity for female leaders.

The ability to connect has always been important for professional women, but largely, to date, it's taken the form of network and support groups. In an attempt to get more women to the top, we've tapped into a natural skill women have - to build supportive relationships and coach each other on our way up. There are thousands of these groups by sector levels and locality.

If the roles were reversed, and men were under-represented in the boardroom, I am pretty sure they would resort to more direct means. Men are inherently more confident, ambitious and competitive which means their paths to success have often taken a very different course from many female leaders. It is connectivity that has helped women secure senior roles in the past, and I believe this will play an even bigger role opening up more leadership opportunities in the future. I believe we are seeing a shift from competition to connectivity and collaboration and organisations are increasingly benefiting from this approach.

As a marketing consultant in 2009, I worked in collaboration with The Portman Group to unite the drinks industry behind one campaign to promote responsible drinking. Rather than having 40 different drinks companies compete on their social responsibility messaging, we joined forces to invest behind a single campaign - Why Let Good Times Go Bad?

It was one the most successful social marketing launches in terms of impact, understanding and potential to change behaviour, according to researchers at Millward Brown. But what was more impressive was to watch the 40 companies who'd historically spent years competing against each other coming together to do something brave, innovative and valuable. This required a different type of leadership approach - more empathy, more collaboration, less ego - to unite a previously un-unitable bunch.

As HR guru Lynda Gratton puts it in her research "The Future of Work": "One of the paradoxes of the future will be that to succeed one will [....] need to both stand out for your mastery and skills and simultaneously become part of a collection of other masters who together create value."

I work in an industry that has been dominated by male leaders. Looking even five years back, most media agencies were run by men. Looking at the top 10 media agencies in the UK today, five of the 10 are run by women. That's a massive shift in a relatively short space of time and a reflection of the fact that the media industry has changed.

Media agencies of the future will increasingly need to think beyond advertising and be innovative in their approach to deliver value to clients. Connectivity, collaboration and holistic thinking will help agencies deliver this innovation and value for clients.

Let's be honest, leadership has been defined by men. If we look to replicate those skills as women, we may never realise our true potential as leaders. Our strengths in connectivity will help more women succeed as leaders. Now our natural strengths are becoming important in how organisations need to be led in both the new era of leadership and the media industry I work in.

We just need to make sure we act and grab the opportunity.