Leadership diversity and leadership challenge

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    Vol. 12. No. 3. CENTER FOR CREATIVE LEADERSHIP 1992

    Leadership Diversity and Leadership Challenge Ann M. Morrison

    Diversity in the work force is rapidly becoming a fact of life in America. According to recent estimates, perhaps eighty-five percent of the net new workers entering the work force before the turn of the century will be from groups other than native-born white men (see Workforce 2000). Diversity in leadership, however, has been slow in coming. People of color and white women are, even after twenty years of affirmative action and some gains,' greatly underrepresented in the manage- ment ranks, especially at the top levels.

    This situation is likely to have a number of serious consequences, including labor unrest caused by the unequal opportu- nity of a two-tiered system, customer dissatisfaction because management is out of touch with growing markets made up of women and people of color, and a dimin- ished competitiveness because a large pool of high-potential managers is not being tapped.

    concerned with how this situation can be changed. Called the GOLD Project (for Guidelines on Leadership Diversity), it involved extensive, confidential interviews with a diverse group of nearly two hundred managers from sixteen organizations (twelve in business, two in education, and two in government). These progressive, U.S.-based organizations are models in the sense that they all have made advances in promoting diversity within their manage- ment.

    The 1992 book, The New Leaders, reports at length on the findings of this study. This article concentrates on one issue: understanding how one generally recognized aspect of leadership develop- ment4hallenge-relates to developing leadership diversity.

    The Center recently conducted a study

    Challenge as a Key to Leadership Development

    It is now widely recognized that a good way to encourage the development of leadership in managers is to give them a series of challenging assignments. Witness, for instance, the practice of having managers who are identified as likely to become effective executives (so-called high- potential managers) rotate into new jobs every year or two. It is believed that this not only exposes people to the workings of an organization but also puts them into situations in which they must develop new skills or improve old ones.

    Research done at the Center (see Lindsey, Homes, & McCall, 1987; McCall, Lombardo, & Morrison, 1988) has given us a more specific understanding of this general developmental method. We identified the developmental assignments that typically figure in the success of white male managers (for example, promotions with dramatically increased responsibilities, transfers into staff functions at corporate headquarters, serving on task forces, troubleshooting stints, and start-up experi- ences that often involve time overseas), and we found eight sources of challenge shared by these assignments (McCall et al., 1988, pp. 124-131):

    1. Dealing with the boss. Challenge arises when the boss is inexperienced or indifferent. The boss may also have a difficult style or even serious managerial flaws.

    2. Dealing with staff members. Challenge arises when the staff is inexperi- enced, recalcitrant, or incompetent. Some staff members may hold a grudge against the manager for being promoted over them.

    3. Other significant relationships. Challenge can come from having to present

    to senior executives, negotiate with outsiders, and collaborate with people from different backgrounds and functions or regions of the organization.

    the extreme visibility of certain assign- ments, especially with top management. Tight deadlines and fmancial risk add to the challenge.

    5. Adverse business conditions. Often seen in overseas assignments, the challenge here is a result of physical hardships (because of a harsh climate or the lack of adequate living facilities), hostile govem- mental officials, or local business practices and values that differ from the manager's own.

    6. Scope and scale of the job. Challenge comes from managing a large number of subordinates, including some who are geographically distant and some who have a superior technical knowledge.

    7. Missing trumps. Challenge comes from the lack of traditionally required credentials or background characteristics; the manager is required to establish credibility while learning a new job.

    results from the suddenness or extent of

    4. High stakes. Challenge comes from

    8. Starkness of transition. Challenge

    Also in this issue . . Leadership in the Quest for Quality Elizabeth Holmes ....................... 5 INSIDE VIEW Walter F. Ulmer. Jr. ................... 7 IMAGES John Alexander .......................... 8 INKLINGS David P. Campbell ..................... 9 IN PROGRESS Jean Leslie, Sylvester Taylor ... 10

    Newsletter ............................... 1 1

  • Issues & Observations: Vol. 12, No. 3,1992 2 Center for Creative Leadership

    change involved in the transition; some- times the manager's personal life changes as the job changes.

    These eight sources might be consid- ered the standard model of challenge for traditional, white male managers. Elements of it are recognized in many organizations and have even sometimes been incorporated into their development programs and tools. It is, thus, being used to understand and plan for the development of many of today's managers. The question is, does this model work well for nontraditional managers-for people of color and white women?

    There is evidence suggesting that, despite some common ground, the develop- mental picture for nontraditional managers is distinct from that of white male manag- ers. For instance, the Center's research on white female executives found that the group of developmental assignments they reported as being important overlapped with but was not the same as that reported by white male executives (see Momson, White, & Van Velsor, 1992; Van Velsor & Hughes, 1990).

    Findings from the GOLD Project indicate that, although these eight elements surely play some role in the development of nontraditional managers, the model does not adequately cover the challenge faced by them. It fails in two ways: First, there are important challenges that they typically encounter that are not included here; and, second, the model does not recognize that some of the challenges require more effort from them than from traditional managers. The additional and exaggerated challenges may not be taken into consideration when planning or assessing the developmental assignments given to nontraditional managers.

    Additional and Exaggerated Challenges

    Nontraditional managers often encounter major barriers-such as prejudice, isolation, and serious conflicts between ca re r and personal l i f e 4 a t create additional challenges for them. It is not difficult to imagine, for example, the increased difficulty of dealing with a boss who not only lacks some skills and has a difficult style but who is also prejudiced. (I define prejudice as the tendency on the part of many people to see differences as weak- nesses.) Similarly, there may be added difficulty in dealing with prejudiced subordinates. peers, and outsiders. The addition of prejudice to the first three

    sources of challenge complicates and deepens them in ways not encountered by many white men.

    In addition, because of prejudice, the standards of performance may be higher for nontraditional than traditional managers. In the GOLD study and in our earlier research on women in management, we discovered that nontraditional managers are often expected to perform at a higher level than white men who hold or who have held the same job. Having to do a job better than anyone else is likely to add to the challenge experienced by nontraditional managers.

    Coping with adverse conditions is another ingredient that may increase the level of challenge for nontraditional managers. In describing the challenge of troubleshooting assignments, for example, white male managers sometimes mentioned the hostility of co-workers who resented their advice, their attempted interventions, and even their very presence. Also, their limited assignments in foreign countries

    d E U 5 G D

    sometimes entailed coping with capricious or unfriendly government officials. Such problems are typically confined to certain types of assignments or locations in the reports of traditional managers, but they appear to constitute the daily life of many nontraditional managers4ven those in the progressive organizations included in our study.

    great deal of resentment and hostility from subordinates who dislike reporting to anyone not white and male, and from co- workers who feel threatened when working side by side with a nontraditional manager. Some colleagues may not be hostile but merely skeptical. They may not be directly opposed to an integrated work force but they suspect that nontraditional managers are simply not up to the task; consequently they are cautious in the way they relate to, delegate to, and rely on a white woman or a person of color. Such co-workers, consult- ants, suppliers, and customers may rational-

    Our findings indicate that there is still a

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  • Issues & Observations: Vol. 12, No. 3,1992 3 Center for Creative Leadership

    ize the presence of nontraditional managers as the outcome of a quota system. A Chinese manager in our study said that her boss had told her to be as un-Asian as possible and to have her Asian subordi- nates be un-Asian as well because the department looks like an Asian connec- tion. She has to be concerned on a daily basis with the effect of looking, acting, and seeming Asian as she performs her job.

    There is also evidence from this study and other research that the pressure and visibility associated with their performance may also be greater for nontraditional managers, adding even more challenge to their work. All conscientious managers are likely to feel pressure to perform their jobs well, but our research indicates that a nontraditional manager is noticed, watched, and judged more than a traditional one, if only because the former stands out in the management ranks.

    these circumstances is frustrating and draining. One Hispanic manager in our study explained, Those minorities who are going up get excess scrutiny. They are put under a microscope, and there is pressure not to screw up. And the observers include not only the managers bosses and col- leagues-who may be curious, if not doubtful, about their competence-but also other nontraditional colleagues who desperately want them to succeed so that they, too, may be given a chance some day to show their worth.

    The burden carried by many non- traditional managers to represent their demographic group while performing their job is one that can raise the level of challenge beyond that of white male managers in any assignment they have. Because they represent not only their organization but also their ethnic or gender group (and sometimes even the concept of diversity in general), they are constantly called upon to promote the cause. The media want them for stories and profiles. Social scientists want them for research projects. Other members of their group, with ambitions of their own, want them as role models and regularly call them for advice or favors. Their bosses sometimes nudge them to serve on committees and task forces as the ranking woman or person of color to represent that point of view. Employee groups ask them to mentor other nontraditional managers. Top management may want their help to recruit nontraditional managers. The amount of necessary volunteerism within and outside the

    The added pressure of working under

    organization is higher for them, even though they must continue to do their jobs in a consistently outstanding fashion to stay in good stead with their bosses.

    Although some nontraditional manag- ers shun volunteerism, and some traditional managers elect to contribute considerable time to volunteer work, the reality seems to be that people of color and white women are generally under a great deal of pressure to do more of it. Those who dont support traditional activities run the risk of alienat- ing their white male colleagues. Those who dont support their demographic colleagues risk being ostracized by them. Their visibility permits them no refuge from multiple, sometimes conflicting, obliga- tions.

    nontraditional managers is balancing career demands with outside demands. The managers in our study generally agreed that women experience this more than men; the responsibilities of bearing and raising children, maintaining a household, and managing social relationships are still disproportionately borne by women. Women with the financial means to hire help may be freed from these duties personally, but that does not reduce their degree of responsibility. They still must hire and manage people to perform these jobs, intervene when sickness or problems occur, and account for the results. The continual challenge of juggling home and family with job demands creates conflict and stress that women in particular are expected to manage. Some men are also strained in seeking a balance between the two; Hispanic men may be especially vulnerable, as some managers noted, because their culture puts a high value on family life.

    Overall, it appears that the level of challenge in a given assignment is consider- ably higher for nontraditional managers than for traditional managers. The former must combine the demands of meeting higher performance standards, regularly confronting adversity such as hostility or harassment, working under great scrutiny and contending with the expectations of both traditional and nontraditional groups, and struggling day after day with care- giving and social duties. Some executives may have concluded that if nontraditional managers have more difficulty performing an assignment it must be because they are not as capable as their white male counter- parts. But this view can be countered with the argument that nontraditional managers are facing greater challenges that are both

    Another aspect of challenge for many

    Implementing Diversity On December 1-3, 1992. the

    Center will host a working conference entitled, Leadership Diversity: Beyond Awareness Into Action. It will bring together researchers, human-resource managers, executives, and consultants for the purpose of sharing information on the strengths and weaknesses of current practices used to foster managerial diversity. Organized around two themes (creating goals for developing diversity, and selecting and using tools to achieve those goals), activities will include a series of facilitated small-group discussions, a panel discussion, a presentation by the Cornell Interactive Theatre Ensemble (which bills itself as a resource for education in diversity). and plenary and concurrent sessions where papers will be delivered. The conference will feature a number of resource people, including: Ann Momson and Marian Ruderman of the Center, Catherine Buntaine and Fred Miller of the Kaleel Jamison Consulting Group, Price Cobbs of Pacific Management Systems. Kay Iwata of Pacific Resources Education Programs, Inc., Allen Kraut of Baruch College. Ted Payne of Xerox Corporation, Jack McCrory of the City of San Diego. and Derald Sue of California State University, Hayward.

    For more information on the conference, contact Martha llughes- James at 9 19-288-72 10.

    within the assignment and surrounding it. The same assignment given to a tradi- tional and nontraditional manager is not the same at all.

    T h e Danger of Limiting Chal lenge

    Because of the extraordinary challenge faced by nontraditional managers, some organizations may be tempted to provide some relief by assigning them to less consequential jobs. But this only blocks their advancement. Nontraditional manag- ers are already more likely to be put into positions, often peripheral staff jobs, considered less important to the organizations performance. Then. when a

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    Itsues & Obwrvations: I 01. 12, A'o. 3. 1992 c Center for Creative Leadership

    higher-level opening comes up. they are not likely to get the job because of a lack of experience in strategic, central posts.

    Instead of reducing the level of challenge by limiting nontraditional managers to assignments perceived to be less critical (and therefore less demanding), one alternative is to reduce demands from other sources: Use the same performance standards for all managers, traditional and nontraditional; reduce the impact of prejudice: promote a larger cadre of nontraditional managers so that the demands on any of these individuals to represent their demographic group are lessened; provide benefit packages that allow managers to fulfill outside obligations while pursuing their careers. Such altema- tives can provide relief from some of the additional sources of challenge without interfering with the advancement potential of the nontraditional manager.

    Con cl usi o n Perhaps the biggest mistake that organiza- tions make when attempting to increase leadership diversity is misusing challenge. Challenge is either heaped onto non- traditional managers until the! hum out or opt out. or important challeng- L \ are withheld from them. causing them to plateau or derail.

    Furthermore. organizations often rely o n challenge alone to develop managers. This concept of leadership de\elopment is. in m y view. too simplistic. Organizations must also provide managers uith recogni- tion and support.

    acknowledgment of. and rewards for. achievement. It can come in many different forms. including: pa) (sala5 and total cash compensation ): promotion (advancement to posirions of greater responsihilityj: perquisites ia company car. tlitb member- ships. financial incentives and advice. and so on); participation I inclusion in decision making): autonom\ one'\ own without supen~ision J: resource5 (adequate staff, budget, and iiriii ' to do the job): respect and credibility (one's pnorities and opinions are taken imo cim\ideration and valued): and faith (the eipcctation that one's prciductivit! u 111 continue in increas- ingly responsible pohitions 1 .

    By srcpporr. I mean undcr\randing and acceptance of each manager'\ individual Gtuation. plus benefits that prcn ide help in that situation. Common form.; of support are: collegiality (friendl), association with Lo-workers): advocac) 1 bnching and

    What I mean by rerogtairim is

    endorsement): permission to fail (the leeway to make mistakes that one can learn from); information (news about the business and the organization); feedback (data about one's abilities, prospects, and reputation); flexibility (the option to tailor a job to one's own strengths or circuinstances); and stress relief (the reduction of anxiety and tension by accommodating family and other outside demands and by preventing on-the-job hostilities).

    McCall, M. W., Jr., Lombardo, M. M., & Morrison, A. M. (1988). The lessons of experience: How successful executives dei,elop on the job. Lexington, MA: Lexington Books.

    Momson, A. M. (1992). The new leaders: Guidelines on leadership diversity in America. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

    Momson, A. M., White, R. P., & Van Velsor, E. (1992). Breaking the glass ceiling: Can women reach the top ofAmerica's largest corporations? (Updated ed.). Reading, MA: Addison- Wesley.

    Workforce 2000: Work and workersfor the 21st century. Execuiive summary. (1987). Indianapolis: Hudson Institute.

    Van Velsor, E., & Hughes, M. W. (1990). Gender differences in the development of managers: How women managers learn from experience (Tech. Rep. No. 145). Greensboro, NC: Center for Creative Leadership. ---

    Ann Morrison is a Research Scientist at the Center.

    THREE COMPONENTS FOR SC'WAINED

    LEADERSHIP DlWELOPMEh'T Reprints

    But merely seeing that these elements are present is not enough; they must be in balance. When challenge, recognition, and support are balanced. then leadership development, and leadership diversity, are more likely to occur. In fact, the balance of these elements could be seen as a new model for sustained leadership develop- ment. The GOLD research taught us this, and the guidelines just published in The NeM. Leaders explain in detail how that balance can be achieved.

    Note 'According to an Equal Employment

    Opportunity Commission report (cited by Bradsher, 1988), the number of women, blacks, and Hispanics in management has quadrupled since 1970. and the number of Asians has increased eightfold.

    Bibliography Bradsher, K. (1988, March 17). Women gain

    numbers. respect in boird rooms. The Los Angeles Times, pp. 1. 6 .

    Lindsey, E. H.. Homes, V., 8: McCall. M. W., Jr. (1987). Key et'ents in executives' lives (Tech. Rep. No. 32). Greensboro, NC: Center for Creative Leadership.

    If you would like repnnts of any feature in this number of Issues & Observations, please send $ 1 .OO each for up to 10 copies, $.75 each for 11-50 copies, or $.60 each for more than 50 copies. Send to: Publica- tion, Center for Creative Leadership, P. 0. Box 26300, Greensboro. NC 27438-6300.

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