Confidence in Leadership for Women in Corporate America

How do you define leadership, and what level of confidence does it take in order to excel as a leader? This is an insightful interview with Ron Harvey about the roles women play in corporate leadership positions and how men and women differ in their approach as leaders that could be hurting women and preventing them from raising to higher positions. Ron Harvey is a John Maxwell coach who specializes in working with C-level corporate leaders to help them 10x their leadership performance. What a fun and insightful interview on confidence and leadership.

Ron Harvey is the Vice President Global Core Strategies and Consulting LLC and Certified Coach with ICF. Certified John Maxwell Leadership Team Member. He works with organizations and leadership teams to enable them to be intentional about establishing a winning culture and improving employee engagement that recruits and retains top talent.

Clients experience higher retention rates, business growth, increased profitability and distinguish themselves as the place to work. Ron and his team provide real results in real time allowing clients the freedom to focus on their business operations, be creative and impactful.

Alicia: So you coach leadership, and what led you into that field of actually coaching leadership?

Ron: Coming out of the Military led for 21 years is where I got most of my leadership experience. I started very young in leadership with the military. I found myself being deployed at a very young age of 25, and people were really dependent on you to keep them alive, to make great choices, let them know they can flourish in their careers so I started leadership very young within the military and as I progressed and got promoted it just became something I wanted to do, and so my tag line became “I always wanted to do something that makes the difference for others”. That's really what got me in to a leadership. So how do you help people show up to be their best.

Alicia: That's good! Being from the military obviously confidence had to come very quickly if you didn’t already have it, once you’re placed in that leadership role, you have to like gird up your loins really quick. Right?

Ron: Yeah! People really depend on it. The unique thing about it Alicia is I think I grew up really, really fast in the leadership realm and I think it happens to a lot of people where technically we’re really good and get promoted to next position, and you try to do what helped you get promoted but that’s not what is really needed.

Alicia: Ahh.., that is very interesting! I want to get some of these next questions that I had from an article that I read today, because you just touched on that, that sometimes the thing that got you to one position, is not what’s gonna take you to the next position, or you promoted to the next position and it’s not what going to bring you success in that position. So is that very interesting? That's how you work with your clients?

Ron: Yes! When we work with clients, one of the things that is really important, you hear this word “leadership presence”. But if you ask people to define it, it's very tough. So when you start thinking of leadership presence, technical skills is not really leadership presence, it is not a mission statement. It is how you want to show up in a room every time you show up, and how you own the space that you in. And so now when you start talking about going from technically sharp which is great because you got to do that to get to the next level, but to get to then next level there's something different that's needed.

Alicia: Ahh.., that is very interesting and I don't think a lot of people are aware of that, or not until they're in that position do they realize that’s what's happened, then it's like uh oh now what I do, and you have to learn quickly on the job training. So in your opinion, what role does confidence play in leadership?

Ron: In my opinion, when it comes to confidence, I think something that’s really really tied of confidence is competence, and you find individuals that the more you develop the people that are dependent on you daily, that want to do a really really great job, if you tap into their level of competence then they show up more confident. That’s even when you are looking at little kids, I spent a lot of time mentoring and working with the youth and one of the things we really work hard at is making sure that they feel very competent. So if you are a leader a leader of an organization, be intentional about developing people’s competence and you’ll be amazed how much more confident they show up. That part of it is super important. Now the role that it plays is, if I'm not confident as a leader I’ll either do one of two things: either pretend or fake it until I figure it out. I’ll shrink back and hope that I have a team that’s really solid and I won't be a leader. I’ll tend to do things honestly that I'm comfortable doing because I am not confident in that position.

Alicia: That is so true because, again I was reading this article today on women in leadership, and they said that… well, the article was really about overcoming 10 obstacles to power up, and one of the obstacles they said that, “there’s hesitation about taking actions that will make other people unhappy in making those decisions”. So competence, like you're saying they might rely more on the team instead of their own leadership skills and they'll hesitate to actually take action.

Ron: Well, which is very unique because when you show up to a new position, often times in most of the organizations, you know there’s a gap in our society of being intentional about succession management planning. It’s written in books, it’s in charts so when you really take the opportunity and ask most people that got promoted, how much was invested in them to prepare them for the position versus they kinda got it by default, or someone got sick. You know what is really invested in individual that you see two years from now, really taking the position. So how much are you given that opportunity to grow while someone else is in charge.

Alicia: That's so true. Yes there’s often leadership by default. (laugh..) “Oh you look good for this position, you should have it”. Ok…

So one of the really interesting things, is the difference between how men lead and how women lead, what is your opinion on the differences that you see between men in leadership positions and women in leadership positions?

Ron: Wow I can give several answers to that question. Well, my personal opinion, what I say, is that women are really solid as leaders, when they make decision they pretty solid on it. They pull all of the data, they make sure that it is very factual, so they are really reallly solid. And I think women haven’t been given the opportunity because of Corporate American society hasn’t really recognized that one or two things that women do bring a lot in the table or that they are intimidated by women in leadership. I think that does show up but this is just Ron speaking, so it’s not something that I would say is Gallop poled. But reality is that some people haven’t yet recognized how great women are in leadership roles and that’s not everybody but we do see it across to our society. But when it comes to women in leadership roles, what you will find out the difference between men and women when it comes to gender; when men know about 60% of something, they would step up and take the job. Women; often times will find another 40% reasons not to. Women will go in and say, know what, I know about 60% percent but I don't know if I’m really ready. Men would take a chance Alicia…

Alicia: And that hesitation I'm talking about earlier.

Ron: Oh yeah hesitation, They gotta know it all and men will go for it and I think that’s because society is a lot harder on them so they wanna make sure they know exactly what they are doing.

Alicia: So if they make a mistake, it’s judged a lot hasher that with men. That's interesting. I watched a Ted talk on coding for women, and what she's talking about is girl code. She had a company called Girl Code, and she noticed that girls would not show their work like they’d rather show a blank piece of paper and then show their mistakes that they made in coding. Where the boys would just show you all their stuff, and be like “Yeah” and they’re proud of it. But women (the girls) would always be hesitant because they would think they’re doing it wrong, they're making a mistake, and they always wanna be right or perfect before they actually show their work and I guess it's the same that holds true for leadership too, that they don't wanna mess up, or make mistakes, so even though you're saying that you think women are solid leaders, because when they do make decisions and they take action, it’s you know, they can back it up and everything, but it's getting them to that state of actually making that decision.

Ron: Yes. The judgement is different, Michelle Obama said a statement about two weeks or three weeks ago, she spoke about the gender of men and women. One of the things, I think there’s a lot of truth to what she said, “In society we tend to loved our guys and we tend to raise our girls”. And so when I look at my sisters that were raised, my mother held them to a different standard of cleaning, and cooking, and learning, and reading, I mean my twin sister would be afraid to bring her report card in if we were bringing mine in at the same time. So really I watched it now and as I look back at my life, it is a different way of how girls are raised, and how boys are raised.

Alicia: Right., that's interesting. It starts even from childhood... Just a quick recap; we talked about confidence that it comes from being competent and from really knowing what you’re doing and being competent in your skill set, and that brings you confidence in leadership. Right?

Ron: Yeah it's perfect. When you think of leaders across the board in any role that I have ever played, when I started the company, I really had to go to the Maxwell training, I had to go Georgetown University, I have to get with ICF, so I felt very comfortable and confident of what would be expected of me. I think what's important that first; is you want your organization to take care of you and get you trained up. But also think for leaders, you have to invest in yourself, you have to take the first step to where ever you want to be at two years from now, what are you doing intentionally to invest to yourself?

Alicia: I totally agree with that, I completely agree with that, you cannot be afraid to invest in your own growth. Don't wait for the company to do it, because what happen is you can get promoted… you can get fast tracked if you show competence, leadership skills in what you're doing, if you take that initiative and invest in yourself to grow yourself as a leader.

Ron: Yeah. And I think that's important for everyone. Looking at that from a kid where a kid is picking up a book and reading a book, or doing other things around the house showing that, you will be amazed how many organizations are watching to see who’s gonna have the initiative to step out and go a little bit further than what their normal job is and so there is individual leadership then there’s Corporate America leadership.

Alicia: Yes initiative is very important. Taking the initiative to do things and it starts from childhood. You can raise leaders in your home, and you just have to teach them that they are leaders and raise them up as leaders and teach them how to tap into those skills, right? Read! Be readers. Readers are leaders.

Ron: Yes, which is important if you’re gonna raise leaders, the important thing that I've learned even for me, I’ve made some mistakes, I did not get out of the way soon enough for the people that wanted to come in to my position. So if you are a leader, you have to be willing to teach me, educate me, and prepare me, but also have to be willing to get out of the way and step aside. Alicia: Yeah, step aside and allow them to shine. Very good! So what are some of the tools and strategies that you can suggest specifically for women in leadership to gain more confidence in their ability to lead? Ron: Yeah, first thing that I will suggest to women in leadership is find a woman that is doing something that you are impressed by in a leadership role. Learn to fly with the eagles, I mean because at the end of the day everybody can't be a leader in your organization and they’re just not meant to be. And I know we have this questions, "Is everybody is a leader?" I think everybody be a leader in some aspect of their life or society but not in organizations. So when you’re looking into an organization, find someone that doing what it is that you see as valuable for you. The second thing I will tell, every person is find a mentor or a coach to help you see what you don't see. I think we’re finally getting to that space where we’re uncomfortable, but if you going to grow, growth is uncomfortable.

Alicia: Growth is so uncomfortable. It's hard, listen and it’s hard to take I don’t even want to say constructive criticism, but it's hard to take someone telling you something you don't wanna hear about yourself, you know that you need to make a shift in. you know a lot of people can't accept that kind of “constructive criticism” about themselves.

Ron: And people use that word Alicia, that’s one of the words you’ll find I rarely use. And I got away from it in the military because constructive criticism for me means, to construct is to build, to criticize is to tear down…

Alicia: Is to tear down. That’s why I didn’t want to use the word, but... Ron: I use it probably for feedback, to help people grow, when those opportunities for growth, because there's some people that I've never seen a critic honestly, that helps the world change. They talk about the world but they never changed the world.

Alicia: So true. Ok so sometimes we resist those growth opportunities, and it is really important to have a coach and a mentor be open minded and have growth mindset so that when they are giving you feedback on things that you're willing to accept it and make whatever necessary changes that you need to make in order to grow yourself as a leader. And those are some great tips. Thank you so much. And I also wanted to ask you because, a lot of people talked about strengths and weaknesses, and your values and your beliefs. So what role do you believe your strengths and your values have in leadership?

Ron: I will start with the values first if I could here. Values for most leaders that's about everything. Because when someone, when you are a leader, and you find yourself… talking about leadership presence again, your values are there, they’re real and the struggle sometimes, when you're leading an organization or making choices, and there are some values that you hold really really near and dear, if someone bumps up against those, you find yourself feeling very awkward, heated and frustrated. It’s not because they are going against your decision, they are bumping up against with your values. So when you start to think about a leader, what you value most, being real about that, and when you are making leadership decisions, understand that you can't force your values on other people because being respectful of everyone’s values as a leader it is super important.

Alicia: Now can I ask a question then, as we're talking about values, If you recognize you are working for a company then and you're rising up in the ranks, and you find that the values are no longer in alignment with your personal values, how do you address that situation?

Ron: And when you're working in an organization which is unique and I'm an entrepreneur and have served 21 years in the military, and there were things that bumped up against my values in the military, that's reality. But when you're working for an organization, as a leader as you rise, if it’s not something dealing with integrity for me, and it’s just a value thing, then I'm OK with it when I’m having that conversation, because I know I’m representing an organization. You know it’s almost as though we look at, this may be a hot topic for a later conversation, but you look at the NFL and the people making decisions from a leadership role, they're role models and they’re making some decisions that are from a leadership role for some people. Do I agree or disagree is irrelevant, but what I don't agree with, is they're on the clock when they go out for the NFL, and when they're go on that field they are working for someone. And so people are frustrated because they are taking a knee and I say, “Hey, look if you want to take a knee, I would love to see them do that on their own time. If you’re gonna to stand for something, stand for it when you are not, because if you’re working for me and you’re doing some things when I'm paying you, I'm gonna be a little frustrated it’s not gonna work out well.

Alicia: That's a perfect example of your values bumping up against the company's values. You're absolutely right! Do it on your own time, and when you're working for me, you represent me of what my brand is. Not necessarily what your brand is.

Ron: That’s not for everybody I know we would get some people that would disagree with what we are talking about. But for me personally, if you ask Ron Harvey when taking to an organization, I think when you go into an organization if you are on their clock, and you know what they stand for, you get to make two choices; that you don't be a part of their organization anymore because it’s too much of a struggle for you. Or I'm Ok with this and I can deal with this, now I do have a problem when it comes to integrity that I will to separate for something if it’s an integrity violation for me because I can't do that.

Alicia: That's right, that’s a good way to kind of delineate based on your values and the company's values. So what about your strengths?

Ron: I think for me and for every leader that is on here, we have to have a clear identity of three things that we really really good at. And we want to enhance those to get better. And some people say well you always want to get better in the things you’re not good at. I don't play basketball, I loved it but I'm not basketball player. The best I’ll ever be at it Alicia is average.

Alicia: And you’re not going to be out there 6 or 7 hours trying to get better at it.

Ron: No I don’t play golf, I’ll go have fun and it’s just good teamwork. But I’m not trying to be a professional basketball player. So I tell people whatever your gift is, get great at that, hone in on that, and be really excellent at that. So what are your strengths, because you have those on the table, and you bring other people to the table, that do things that you don't do well.

Alicia: Right, so what are your three top core competencies? To work on those, strengthen those, and hire out the rest.

Ron: Yes, delegate and hire out. It’s a control thing. I tell people if you don't delegate it shows a lack of trust. I think it’s super important that you are comfortable with delegating and how you go up in an organization you really don’t get to do the things you used to do, you got to trust other people.

Alicia: That’s true in order to rise, you have to trust others. So I have just 2 mins left so is there anything else you want to share Ron before we wrap up today.

Ron: The thing that I would probably leave with all the people that are listening to us is when it comes to leadership presence, make sure you find a coach or a mentor, find someone that really hold you accountable, and let it be fun enjoy what you're doing and stay within your gift. Leadership is an awesome thing everything starts and finishes leadership and be intentional about your own growth. The question I will leave what are the things you are doing to grow yourself? You should not be the same this time next year. This was an awesome interview and I hope you gained something from it. Please let me know your thoughts on Leadership and Confidence.

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