Women in leadership

I stumbled across this short video by Tina Brown and I thought it presented some new and creative ideas about how organizations can be a lot more user-friendly.

Here's the link to the video: my comments follow below.


The video is targeted to issues that women face, and I don't want to take away from that. The challenges of childbirth and child-rearing are unique for women. Although companies have made some adaptations, there is still great room for more creativity, and the video presents some ideas about how to approach this.

I also think that the ideas here should not just be limited to women. The idea of "career cycles" applies to everyone at different stages of a working life. Our current model has few options besides the little vacation, no-break, always-on, 40-or-more-hour workweek. This leads to stress, burnout, health issues, and a serious overweighting of work in life without much option for balance. People who are exploring careers early, who need major flex time to care for family, or who are at the later part of their careers have few options that fit their needs. Companies overlook these talents to their disadvantage.

What if we did have better options for balance? The video mentions a 3-week on, 1-week off model. A few companies are using a 4-day workweek – which only works if it is OK to turn off the work on the days outside the office. What if we rotated managers and leaders more frequently? The opportunity to be creative in how we structure jobs and work is wide open, but only if we choose to de-calcify our institutional policies and free up some imaginative thinking in both our HR departments and in the rest of our organizations.  

Two phrases that popped out to me for memorableness:

  • Our leadership pipelines are stuffed full of women, but we are substituting "blowhardery" for action.  I love that new word! It perfectly fits some of the folks I have known in my work: substituting hot air and pompous words for any real action or change.
  • Tina Brown uses the phrase "how to use your orchestra" in describing how HR and leadership teams should approach the structuring of organizations.  It is a great metaphor for thinking about how to be more creative for people. Great orchestras have talent in every seat, and the challenge is to create an ensemble that blends great talent into a cohesive whole. Leadership rotates between talented people; the French horn solo is followed by the strings, and the tympani supports the tempo. Organizations would do well to think more like a fine orchestra than by boxes in an org chart or on a spreadsheet.

Four minutes of video, lots of good ideas. What are you doing these days to be more creative in the work options you are presenting to your teams?

Dale Rebhorn

Dale Rebhorn

Dale Rebhorn is a teacher and student of leadership.
Madison, Wisconsin, USA