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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?