Tiffany Harnsongkram: Tamsin, thank you so much for joining us. Let’s get right into it. If a company doesn’t have a lot of diversity in their leadership team, in the form of feminine traits, what are they missing out on?
Tamsin Jones: I think there are two questions here.
Feminine leadership traits is quite a new conversation. It is still in the exploratory stage and new in the business world which unfortunately means that there is not that much content about it at the moment.
But when you’re thinking about women in leadership, or women in executive positions, there is more content available which we can use. In general those studies say that if there is a minimum of 33% women in a company, we see an improvement in risk management. There is less group-think and more diversity in perspectives, which in turn leads to more innovation and an increase in financial returns. A study on venture capital showed that if an organization had a minimum of 33% women they also had a 10-20% higher returns, and this is not only within venture capital we see it happening in other places as well.
What is your perspective on “servant leadership” and what do you think are the misconceptions of women as leaders?
Servant leadership is the leadership style of women and it fits with the feminine traits. If we look at great examples like Jacinda Arden who leads in a revolutionary way and is not soft, but very decisive. She is very clear on care and love, that it is just as important as technology and decision making.
I think what is missing for a lot of women is the space to test. To be able to express their feminine traits and not focus on only comparing yourself to others. Interestingly, within communities like The Argonauts, you do get a space to test: Can I be a different type of person in our organization and within relationships. You don’t feel that you’re being criticized.
Without the option to test, it often leads to the double bind – where women can be either very decisive and very strong (based on male traits) which makes them respected but not liked. OR they use a more collaborative, feminine approach where they are liked but not respected. So basically they can’t win.
But I do think this is changing, there are more people coming out in a more ecocentric way, who look at – what is the benefit of the greatest number (of people). In a book, called Athena, the question was asked – Will the world be a better place when people have these (feminine) traits?. And 65% of the people agreed.
Can a man be a feminine trait leader?
Yes, of course.
We spoke about a transformational shift in our Open Invitation, to a more inclusive world. How would you start encouraging this change?
On the women and feminine traits piece – I have been examining the gaps in leadership development literature. I’m asking, how could it relate more to this transformational experience and why isn’t that a part of how we train leaders? I think we need words to incorporate it into our organisations, so there is a conversation on these traits and it can become an open discussion.
I think what The Argonauts are doing is so important. I don’t think it is easy to tell everybody: Let’s all do this. It’s a very deep personal journey. And I think what I love so much about The Argonauts is that it’s all being done in an interactive group. It’s not my journey, it’s not your journey, it’s our journey. And I think the better we get at being able to meet in spaces like that and take that approach into other spaces, into our own organisations, into other places, that’s where I think we’re going to see a real shift. If you look at the depression, the pandemic everything the world is facing, organisations are already forced to grapple with how to create a much healthier set of working practices and dialogue. I think when we find presence with each other and the ability to truly listen, that’s when things can change dramatically
Coming back to the feminine traits. How can we practice and nurture our feminine traits in our leadership styles?
Such a good question. I am still on the journey myself and looking for the answers. There are many different routes to doing this, but for me, I spent a week in Bhutan and evaluated how I saw my life. And I realized that I was socialized to be very transactional, even though I was doing all these social things, I was operating in a very transactional state. I got a coach and I met some people there whose life perspective blew me out of the water. And my coach asked me: How do you feel about that, and what do you love to do? And if I’m honest, I had forgotten.
So for me it started with expressing emotions. I feel this is our ability to understand who we are and I did a course on physical movement as I feel that it is a natural way for women to express themselves. And then try to get that integrated into all the aspects in your life.
What do you think is the reality and the most frequent problem in gender diversity and female leadership in organisations around the world?
It’s a hard question. I’ll tell you from my perspective. Of all the organisations I have been talking to it has never been about the country or the country culture. What I found is that in every country you have organisations that are extremely progressive and amazing and open and some organisations that aren’t, even when they are in the same industry.
I think what needs to happen is that organisations need to evaluate what is happening to women the whole way through the organisation. The way they come in, why they leave, when they leave, do we have sponsorships or mentoring options, the way you recruit, to how you name something and how you promote someone. Every touchpoint needs to be evaluated. A lot of research has been done and there are some really smart things you can do against gender bias in organisations. For example if an organisation has a promotion strategy where women have to evaluate themselves, they generally mark themselves down. They downplay their achievements. Their manager sees this and also marks their performance down as a result of this. Men typically don’t do this even though they might perform the same or even worse. When you know this, you can act on it as a company and not incorporate it into your performance reviews.
What are the most important attributes of leaders today? And what is the most dangerous trait?
Let’s start with the most dangerous trait. In my opinion the most dangerous trait is people that won’t listen to other people. They are risky, they bring teams down. Our ability to listen and hear is the ability to understand the other.
The best traits is an interesting one, people often respond with collaborative traits, feminine traits as mentioned before. Such as the ability to connect with others. But if we look at the leaders and look for examples we have slim pickins, Jacinda Ardyn as mentioned, Mandela, maybe Richard Branson, Obama but not that many examples come to mind. So the question is really if we say we value these traits, why don’t we see them in leadership today? And what is needed to make sure these traits end up in the leaders we have?
Thank you so much for your time and input Tamsin!