The biggest problem I have coaching CEOs and senior executives is getting them to see the world as it is rather than how they want it to be. This is virtually always true. It is the curse of power.
When people are used to getting their own way it is easy to be seduced by the illusion that your view of reality is correct. (Donald Trump continues to be a perfect and pathetic example of this.) The deeper truth is that we are all psychologically wired to selectively pay attention to facts, data and trends that justify our opinions, prejudices and decisions.
But this just doesn’t work in the crazy, interconnected world of today. That’s because the future is like the weather. It’s impossible to predict with certainty. Have you ever wondered why weather forecasting seems so sloppy? It is because mathematicians tell us there are simply too many interactive causes that affect weather outcomes.
The same is true for the rest of our lives. The interactive effects of technology, media, markets, finance and global politics are all connected in new ways no one really understands.
Tomorrows’ success formula is uncertain and predicting the future is impossible. All this uncertainty has made sustained successful leadership really hard. And the way most leaders deal with things they can’t control is to hunker down on the things they do control.
What I find is that when business leaders run out of big ideas Wall Street and Boards of Directors force executives to continually focus on reducing costs and driving efficiency. Today most large companies don’t grow at all organically. That is, the core business doesn’t grow because leaders have created a culture that is allergic to risk. So what they do instead is acquire promising startups to temporarily juice their own stock and then drive off all the new entrepreneurs because their risk-averse cultures cut off all the creative oxygen.
The problem of course, is that most leaders are promoted to senior positions because they’re expert at hard power strategies. They continually stretch ‘stretch goals’ and reduce headcount to get more profit out of stale revenue. Leaders who do this achieve a veneer of success but then leave their position for another company before they’re hollowing out of innovative talent comes back to bite them. Want an example? Mark Hurd is now wrecking Oracle after he turned Hewlett-Packard into the world’s most boring technology company by thoroughly destroying its innovative culture. The current list of leaders who fail to innovate is frighteningly long.
As I’ve written before, solving this problem will never come from the business establishment. Business schools who churn out copycat MBAs, self-serving Wall Street demands, and incredibly low leadership standards combined with massive CEO pay packages for playing this game all conspire to accelerate a downward spiral called “whole system failure.”
If I sound upset, I am. I’m working closely with a group of mid-level women leaders whose once magnificent company is transforming itself into a Wall Street puppet right before my eyes. I’ve seen this happen over and over again in the last 15 years.
The best solution, and maybe the only solution, is for business leaders who really want to create value-unique value-value that will change the world and enhance our quality of life is to start new enterprises financed outside of the traditional venture capital and Wall Street circus.
I believe the only way out of our downward spiral is to fund entrepreneurs and companies who are serious about two things. Positive Innovation and Agile Execution.
Positive Innovation creates growth. Agile Execution creates profits.Entrepreneurs who are the best at thinking of great innovations and achieving great results are SMART Power thinkers.
Thomas Malone’s Center for Collective Intelligence at MIT has 156 experiments that convincingly prove that social intelligence, and a 100% percent work-team inclusion in innovation and execution yield the highest degree of success. Everyone’s voice is heard. Interactive effects are vetted. Value is created, problems are solved and results are successful when divergent thinking is synthesized. That’s how to get the best possible ideas implemented.
What Malone has discovered is that the more women there are on these successful innovation-plus-execution teams the more successful they are.
The reasons are not hard to understand. The July issue of Fortune magazine features an article by Geoff Colvin presenting research that in the future, most analytical and technical jobs will be done by robots and intelligent software. The most important human jobs will revolve around social intelligence. Colvin claims that people whose brains are wired to process complexity, juggle priorities and remain empathically innovative are far better suited to deal with today’s fast-moving challenges than leaders with Reagan-era skills. While there are many men who also possess thinking versatility, he points out that this group of high-functioning skills are primarily attributes of women. And yet women’s contributions are systematically marginalized in most of today’s old-school organizations. Hard power always drives out soft power.
That’s why I am so on fire to draw attention to FundAthena.org and their campaign to end the gross opportunity disparity between male-led and female-led businesses.
Women-led businesses only get 2.7% of the billions of venture-capital invested each year. This is in spite of the fact that according to Dow Jones research of over 20,000 startups, new companies with five or more women in senior positions are twice as likely to be successful than startups led by men only.
The reasons are simple. According to research by psychologist Daniel Golemen, women are far more likely to alter their strategic business plans in order to be successful because they have more thinking agility and are less ego invested in “being right.” They’re also more likely to come up with products, pricing and messaging that is more aligned with customer desires than many aggressive males who invest their energy in trying to “convince” customers to buy whatever they’re selling.
Yet, all the best ideas in the world won’t help innovative women can’t get access to capital.
That’s why a women entrepreneur, Kim Folsum has co-founded an entirely new funding source for women who’ve established small growing businesses that want to grow, compete and dominate on a larger scale. She has recently launched an entirely new money raising model that enables people to invest in women-led businesses. This isn’t like Kickstarter or other crowd funding sites where you donate money. At Fund Athena you actually invest in companies you choose with the expectation of a real financial return. In an effort to free up more sources of big investment dollars Kim is doing a personal “March on Washington” to bring attention to the outrageous disparity that women face in trying to access capital. What Kim wants from you is your signature on a petition and if you choose, a little support.
For me it’s obvious this has to happen. I have a front row seat at the gutting-out of positive innovation and committed talent in our most important global companies. What’s happening now is so completely off-base that most of our next-generation workforce are already disengaged and looking to build their lives apart from the companies their parents have built. We need to build a new economy…an economy built on businesses that are up to something greater than making money. We need leaders who look at the problems our society faces, our environment faces, and our world faces as the greatest economic opportunity in history. We need leaders who are energized by a vision of sustainable abundance. We need leaders who won’t give up on their dreams and won’t give in to the self interested money-changers that currently control both our nation’s capital and our financial capital.
This is a movement. We need more women in leadership. And we need male leaders who are wise enough to listen to women so that we can co-create a future better than anyone can imagine. We have a choice.
NOTE: If you are a woman leader who wants to have more impact, more work-life harmony and satisfaction then please sign up for information regarding our all-women Leadership SPA (SMART Power Academy) being held December 2-4, 2015 in San Diego.