Magnus Tegborg, managing director of Alumni and Harvey Nash Nordic and part of Harvey Nash plc's Executive Committee, discusses the importance but also the opportunities and challenges of a diverse leadership in the latest issue of AQ - the Journal of Alumni
"For all the talk of 'male' and 'female' leadership styles, I believe that the best leaders are those who, regardless of gender, combine both 'female' and 'male' leadership traits. But the more gender diversity we have on boards and in management generally, the more likely we are to create the kind of hybrid leaders that organisations need.
I personally am not in favour of gender quotas, either on boards or for any other role. They might be a way of promoting a lot of women very quickly, but there are many associated risks. For example, being known as someone who has been promoted because of the quota process does little for an individual's self-confidence. Instead, leaders and influencers must strive to build cultures that are 'gender neutral' - where women and men are treated equally and where the need to put families first goes without saying. The more male and female leaders who can role-model such behaviour, the more quickly change will come about.
In Alumni and Harvey Nash, diversity has been the natural result of overcoming inherent biases and ensuring that we appoint the right person for the job. The results speak for themselves. Four out of five of our country managers are women, our three managing directors in Sweden are women and six of our eight first-line managers in Sweden are women.
As executive search consultants we also have a responsibility to support the promotion of women among our clients. We ensure there is always a mix of men and women on long- and shortlists, and we encourage clients to choose from a broader base of candidates than they have traditionally been wont to. Many talented women would remain undiscovered did we not seek to actively promote greater gender diversity.
As part of this, we have to see beyond the facade that many present at interview. It's a generalisation, of course, but women tend to underplay their skills - even to themselves - and set themselves insufficiently stretching targets. Men, on the other hand, tend to be more competitive, bolder and embrace challenges that equally talented women don't think they are equal to.
We also need to start looking at careers differently, and challenge the truism that what you don't do before you reach the age of 40 you will never do. This is an old-fashioned way of looking at a career - and one that conspires against women taking top jobs, because, despite considerable progress, women continue to take the lion's share of responsibility for childcare. Her caring responsibilities should not arrest a woman's career. Organisations should support women with families so that they can continue to be effective at work. Eventually, when women can shift their focus again, organisations should not view them as having lost career development time, but as having gained valuable life experience. Regarding a 45- or 55-year-old as 'over the hill' bodes ill for women's progression into management and, ultimately, board positions.
All of us - men, women, consultants and clients - have to find ways to sustain and accelerate the momentum that has already gathered. In time that is bound to lead to gender parity on boards and in leadership positions, because, after all, women make just as good (if not better) leaders as men do."
Magnus Tegborg is managing director of Alumni and Harvey Nash Nordic.
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Alumni is the Nordic region's largest and most innovative consultancy within Executive Search and Leadership Services and has for more than 20 years developed tools and services to strengthen our clients' organisations.
Alumni's clients span the entire business community and public sectors. Annually our 40 consultants and 20 researchers place more than 170 executives in key positions.
We have offices in Stockholm, Gothenburg and Malmo, Oslo, Copenhagen, Helsinki and Warsaw. Internationally we are work through our owner Harvey Nash, with more than 35 offices in Europe, the US and Asia.