Do outsiders make good leaders?

By September 16, 2020Learnings

The pandemic has brought into high relief the disparities that exist in our societies between those with reliable incomes, savings and access to online platforms for business, education and staying connected with family and friends, those in safe and healthy living conditions, those with the ability to pivot their skills or businesses and those who are subjected to the anxiety of insecure jobs and accommodation, no savings, patchy education, domestic violence, poor quality or a lack of food. Further the rumblings of racial tensions and unequal access to opportunities are no longer beneath the surface.

In the face of the massive disruptions caused by the pandemic some leadership styles have been found woefully inadequate, creating confusion and fomenting societal discord.

In the BBC Radio 4 programme, Rethink: Leadership, the speakers discussed Jacinda Ardern and Angela Merkel as examples of leaders who have successfully managed their countries during the pandemic. Some people attribute this success to their gender and its traits of nurturing, care and support.

A more nuanced explanation is that as outsiders to the usual male power relationships and structures, Ardern and Merkel have developed skills to:

  • ask illuminating questions
  • not assume that they already know the answers
  • listen more deeply and inclusively
  • be more innovative and nimble in their responses

Those leaders relying on the “old boys network” and other men with similar access to privilege and power to form their views and responses are shielded from multiple perspectives and the possibility of different solutions. They are not exposed to, and hence are blind to diverse needs, vulnerabilities and obstacles.

Is being an outsider working for you or against you as you seek promotion? I invite you to have a conversation with me to explore how we can leverage your skills and different perspectives to become a successful leader.  Contact me on +44 (0) 7952 068133 or send an email to sylvana@sylvanacaloni.com

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