How to Challenge Leadership Stereotypes in your Organisation

How to Challenge Leadership Stereotypes in your Organisation

What do you think of, when you think of a natural 'leader'. There is a stereotype built up, where society associates an ideal leader with agentic traits such as 'assertive', 'forceful', 'dominant', 'competitive' and 'confident'. Whilst we at C-me understand that leadership incorporates many different and varied characteristics - not quite sure that's the right word either ... styles? or starting it ... whilst we at C-me??

e know leadership holds many traits, which is why we are challenging the leadership stereotype and bringing awareness to each individuals leadership style, behaviours and strengths.

Have you ever heard someone say... 

"I'm not very confident"

"I'm not qualified"

"I'm not old enough"

"I'm not ready"

"I've never been recognised before"

"Others around me are better"

"I've messed up too many times"

"I'm just not a leader"

These are quite common thoughts and feelings amongst those who have a stereotypical view of what a leader looks like. It is what people tell themselves when they have been conditioned to expect a certain leadership style which then causes them to feel like an imported or not be a their way of leading. 

What is a Stereotype?

The word stereotype denotes a belief about a certain type of individual, a group of individuals or roles that people fit into. Whether we want to admit it, or even realise it, we have conjured stereotypes as an unconscious bias for all types of people and roles. For example, many would think of a teacher as kind, caring and that they only work when the children are around.

A stereotype causes us to box people in, categorising them and potentially cultivating an expectation of what their behaviour will be, based on that preconceived judgement. 

Whilst this can sometimes be helpful, for example being able to relate to a role that's not yours, for the most part, it is damaging. We are often surprised if someone opposes a stereotypical profile and we can miss opportunities if we underestimate a person's capabilities and it may even prevent us from making beneficial relationships.

Stereotypes in Business

In business, leaders are not exempt from stereotypes. 

Challenges can arise through the industry adopted stereotype for leadership. It often leads to those who don't possess those characteristics opting out of these roles, thinking they don't have the capabilities to perform well in this space.

Think about how we perceive kindness and compassion as leadership qualities? Typically we often see communal traits such as 'affectionate', 'warm' and 'gentle' as less of a priority amongst the skills sets of leaders.

Another typical stereotype in business is gender stereotypes. There is often a gender bias around leadership, relating to the stereotypical behaviours that each gender 'tends' to display and how this affects their performance in a leadership role. Many organisations, companies and people are striving for gender equality and we are now seeing female leadership become accepted and promoted, breaking down the traditional bias.

"I'm not a Leader"

If we don't fit the stereotype, we can end up believing that we are not a leader, or would never make a successful leader. A great tragedy with this is that we end up believing our own self-talk and we suppress our significant leadership potential.

Leading Ourselves and Others

Whatever leadership rhetoric we believe and wherever we fall in the nature vs nurture debate for leadership talent, don't forget that leadership is most fundamentally a choice.

A choice, to take responsibility in leading ourselves well; ensuring we remain emotionally healthy, humble and hungry in order that we keep on growing.

Understanding people will help us to have a positive impact on them, which is ultimately what leadership is all about.

Leadership is not a destination to be reached or a badge of honour to be worn. It is not a skill to be learned on a course (even though courses can be helpful). Instead, leadership is fundamentally an attitude of commitment to personal and collective transformation.

Growing as a leader involves going on a journey; a journey that will be different for every person. The journey may not be straightforward, and it may not be easy. It may not be straightforward or easy but embarking on the adventure is a choice that can lead to great satisfaction.

What is your Leadership Style?

Think about what sort of leader you currently are? What do you perceive to be your greatest strengths? Your biggest blind spots? How do you think other people perceive your leadership?

Now think about what sort of leader you want to be? What are the most significant things that might need to change in order for you to grow into this person? What obstacles might you face? What impact do you think this type of leader might have?

Also, think about who you are leading with. What could you learn from their leadership strengths? How could you be more intentional about passing on your leadership learning? Can you think of situations where you would be wise to step back, in order to allow another person’s leadership to flourish?

Why not take some time to reflect carefully on the questions above? Taking the time to grow as a leader is rarely time wasted.

Challenge the Leadership Stereotype

C-me challenges the leadership stereotype by highlighting different leadership strengths across different behavioural profiles. 

We help you become aware of your own strengths and how you can use these in leadership. We also support you in understanding others and similarly, recognising their leadership strengths. 

You'll quickly realise that leadership is not defined by its stereotype. C-me brings awareness to the array of different behaviours each leader can present. 

C-me helps to bring awareness to the variety of behavioural preferences that can contribute to an effective leader, no matter what your style.

leadership behaviours 

How can C-me Support Growing Leaders?

C-me’s Leadership Development Workshop is a great tool to use when reflecting on your own leadership style and the styles of others. The workshop affirms that many contrasting and complementary leadership styles exist, rather than there being a stereotypical leader. 

A key component to the workshop is considering the centrality of vision in leadership and looking at this through the lens of different colour preferences.

Each colour preference will tend to bring a key question or angle to vision setting and vision casting. Each has a strength and an opposing blind spot. Knowing this can transform our leadership for the better.

If you still believe the misrepresentation that says "I’m not a leader!", or are leading others who think similarly, perhaps it is time to take a step back? There is leadership strength lying untapped in each of us. Perhaps it is time to discover it and let it loose!

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