Author Anna Marie Valerio's comprehensive primer about a complex subject.
So much has been - and continues to be - written about women and leadership that it's difficult to know where to begin in order to get a handle on this complex and critically important subject. With Developing Women Leaders, author Anna Marie Valerio addresses just that issue. Valerio's book is a comprehensive and objective primer on the issues surrounding leadership development for women that offers history, context, research-based suggestions and best practices for business leaders, managers and women themselves.
Central to the author's point of view is that removing roadblocks to women's professional development can improve the leadership potential of men and women alike. Moreover, she makes it clear that broadening and nurturing the talent pool is just plain good for business. The book provides context to its discussion both with a modern history of women in the workplace and a thorough examination of gender stereotypes, expectations, and childhood development. But it also offers plenty of practical advice to managers and other stakeholders for addressing the issue face-on, such as:
Institutionalizing the process of career development: By adopting structured programs such as mentoring, networking and professional coaching designed for groups rather than individuals, managers and organizations can avoid even subtle gender bias and assure that men and women receive equal attention.
Understanding stereotypical perceptions: Research indicates that stereotypical thinking leads to subtle forms of discrimination against women and limits the range of action they can take as leaders. Many businesswomen, for example, find themselves in a double bind: If they act assertively, they're considered strident; if they seek consensus, they might be dismissed as too soft. By contrast, men can adopt either strategy and still be perceived as effective. Valerio encourages business leaders and managers to examine how these stereotypes cloud their own employee evaluations and to take steps to create a culture that allows individuals to find the management style that works best for them.
Avoiding the "glass cliff": Giving promising employees challenging leadership roles is a classic way to develop their abilities. But research has shown that women are more likely to be assigned positions with a higher risk of failure than their male counterparts. Make sure you provide sufficient support for direct reports as they take on difficult tasks so that you're setting them up for success.
Developing Women Leaders is chock full of tips. In fact, if there's a criticism to be made of this book, it's that it errs on the side of thoroughness over style. But if you're looking to tap the talent necessary to compete in the global economy, it is well worth a read.
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