With the knowledge and complexity of organizational culture and the common gender dynamics, women have trouble overcoming “personal, self-limiting behaviors” and are distinctly different than their male co-workers. Although there is agreement, men and women have some common challenges, women in leadership must recognize all obstacles are not just because of male predominance in our industries. We must create provocative consideration on changing the complexion of organizational leadership. Learning to navigate blind spots in our social exchanges while identifying characteristics and traits of effective leadership in ourselves as well as others.
In my executive leadership role, I was more than aware of my ethical leadership responsibilities and those of my male colleagues. However, research study after study highlights systemic organizational culture that breeds “like likes like” which stymies growth, innovation, and change. Catalyst.org estimates men account for over 66% and above of employees, they also make up over 78% of CEO position with women only holding about 22%. Therefore, when CEOs and executive leadership within an organization overlook focusing on the qualities of their people that make up the tone, culture, and vision of the organization for qualities that are familiar and comfortable for them individually, they are overlooking us, women.
After a 29-year profession in policing, a predominately male industry, there were more than enough incidents of experiencing disrespectful, indifferent, or dismissive behavior by male colleagues and leadership. What I discovered as I promoted to an executive level within the organization, finding myself in the top 1% of the fifth largest state agency in the nation, was women in leadership must acknowledge the truths of our circumscribed space in male dominated industries and the work we need to do within ourselves to create the changes we seek.
However, organizations are complex layers of people, within those layers with executive CEOs, are managers and supervisors who are a symbol of organizational leadership. Masked within them often is the potential for greater leadership to emerge but due to their construct of rigidity and requirements, it is embedded and is often not cultivated. Enveloped in that are leadership biases illuminating unconscious biases, along with those intentional, shape and redefine the leadership landscape.
Unconscious bias is a form of “social categorization,” whereby we rapidly and routinely sort people into groups. Within our leadership roles, we must contain our own unconscious biases that bleed over into our leadership conversations, decision making and vision for our team, command, or organization.
Within the ascension of my leadership journey in a multi-billion-dollar police agency, I had to face my blind spots and habits that needed to be broken for me to rise and influence change. Those included self-sabotaging myself with upper limiting beliefs about my competence, reluctance to claim my achievements, expecting others to notice my contributions, and the most common perfectionism before I felt I could perform or compete. There are so many others, but these, they kept me stuck for many years.
During these times, I found it easy to settle into blaming the organizational culture, male colleagues, and systemic traditional practices. As I experienced personal and professional maturation, I discovered the power in my presence. The presence starting to take shape in my leadership. As we know, leadership is not an automatic right but a privilege, and within that privilege, there is a responsibility to balance the competing priorities of your own personal ethics versus those that enrich the organizational culture if not congruent. My leadership lens was becoming less about me, and more about those I was leading. Growth defining experiences and intentional self-inventory, reinforced these three guiding principles from circumscribed space to limitless space redefining “like, likes, like”:
Competence builds boldness. When you are competent, you build your confidence. Confidence builds your boldness to be braver. Grow your knowledge, skills, abilities and be a continual learner. Expertise and experience will bridge that “deserving” space to contribute to those opportunities. Just be ready to respond, it is not if, but when.
Never shrink from a moment. Often, women will create an inner monologue creating self-doubt, fear and feelings of unworthiness that creeps into their mindset. This self-defeating behavior figuratively, and literally, makes us feel small in the room, in the position, in our space. Don’t shrink, rise.
Define your own voice at the table. Do not allow anyone to define who you are and what voice you should have in any forum. Other people’s ideas, research, analysis is not better than yours unless they did the work, and you did not. Speak up, shape your narrative, and deliver.
Positive ethical and effective organizational cultures will hinge on the legitimacy, unbiased and ethical practices from leadership with integrity. You are that leadership, lean into those moments, your strength. Stand in it. Be the catalyst for breaking those habits that hold you back and reshape organizational landscapes.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: In a multi-billion-dollar law enforcement organization, Jonni Redick oversaw large-scale civil disturbance, natural disaster response coordination, and oversight, and managed thousands of personnel within daily operations. A 29-year veteran, rising through the ranks of the California Highway Patrol (CHP) from county clerical worker to breaking through the “less-than-one-percent” ceiling for women of color in executive leadership in law enforcement. Her progression from front-line police work to executive leadership generated her passion for cultivating trust and legitimacy in organizational cultures. She now builds 21st Century leaders as the founder and CEO of JLConsulting Solutions (JLCS) where she works with police executives in law enforcement and public safety, CEOs in corporate, government, and nonprofit businesses. She is a thought leader in law enforcement and educates public safety and law enforcement leaders across the country. Jonni Redick is also the author of “Survival Guide” to Law Enforcement Promotional Preparation and the forthcoming book “Black, White & Blue: Surviving the Sifting.” For additional information, please visit http://jlconsultingsolutions.com.
NOTE: This article was originally published in the APRIL 2021 EDITION of The Urban Voice | Las Vegas and is reprinted with permission from its publisher. For additional content, please visit http://theurbanvoice.com.