SAN DIMAS, Calif. -- What has to change before more women can assume CEO positions at large credit unions and in other industries? Abolish the "good old boys network?" Guarantee equal rights through legislation? Perhaps. But the biggest change may have to come from women making an adjustment in the mindset they bring to work. In order to effectively occupy the executive suite, everyone--male and female--must switch from a managerial frame of mind to a leadership way of thinking, said Kerri Smith, CEO of consulting firm CU Exceed and presenter at WesCorp's Women's Leadership Conference.
Smith coaches CEOs and aspiring leaders, and said in her experience, "At some point, in order to be successful in the position, there has to be a paradigm shift from manager to leader."
What does that mean? Smith said that managers tend to be task and detail oriented, while leaders focus on the big picture, and delegate the operational duties. And because women tend to be more detail oriented, it can be more difficult for them to make the transition.
"The perception from the board is, you're a great operations person, a very hard and responsible worker, but you don't have the vision to move the credit union forward," Smith explained.
Susan Luke, a professional speaker, trainer, career coach and former CUSO CEO, led discussion about strategies to evolve from manager to leader. Delegation is necessary to overcome the hurdle, Luke said.
"Either hire folks to manage the day-to-day operational work, or if you can't do that, figure out a way you can give more responsibility to the people who work with you," she said.
That's not to say that operational work isn't important, Luke said, because credit unions have very specific regulatory and legal responsibilities. However, an effective leader must instead focus on big picture strategy.
Women also tend to delegate time differently than men, Smith said. A man and a woman might both make a list, but a woman will maximize her time, while a man will prioritize his time.
In other words, women tend to multi-task to a fault, trying to get everything on the list done by working on it all at the same time, rather than focusing on one task at a time. Men tend to focus on one task at a time, completing the most important task before moving on to one less important. That kind of focus is required to be an effective leader, Smith said. Luke said aspiring leaders need to recognize that the success of a leader is measured differently. "Managerial success can be quantified, but leadership is more about quality," Luke said. Aspiring leaders can "test the waters" in a more comfortable setting, like volunteering to lead a neighborhood group or organize a charity event. In those situations, it may be easier to put delegation into practice, she said. --firstname.lastname@example.org