The Founding Fathers’ Surprising Skill Sets.

The Founding Fathers’ Surprising Skill Sets.

Who knew George Washington was big on diversity? Or that Ben Franklin was all about agility? And that, save for his famous midnight ride, Paul Revere was an expert on teamwork?

Indeed, the traits and skills that helped build a nation nearly 250 years ago could also work pretty well running a modern-day organization. In honor of Independence Day, here are four of the most important lessons today’s leaders can take away from America’s Founding Fathers.

Respect for Diversity

George Washington’s leadership style was completely at odds with not only that of England’s but also much of the history of leadership up to that point. Instead of being hierarchal, Washington encouraged discussion and consideration of alternative approaches. He had to—his army consisted of a diverse mix of volunteers and militias with different traditions and backgrounds, primarily loyal to their own town, region, or colony. “Washington made that diversity an asset by actively seeking the advice of his subordinates,” says Signe Spencer, a senior consultant with Korn Ferry. 

Learning Agility

Ben Franklin’s capacity for learning is both well-known and unmatched. The scientist, philosopher, cartographer, postmaster, diplomat, and journalist spent his life acquiring knowledge. That ability to adapt to constantly-changing conditions is in demand at the highest levels of modern-day organizations, says Kevin Cashman, global leader of Korn Ferry’s CEO and Executive Development practice. “Franklin embodied the best of transformational leadership,” says Cashman. 

Seamless Collaboration

Most know of Paul Revere only as the lone hero who rode a horse through the streets warning citizens that the British were coming. In fact, he was uniquely adept at uniting disparate and often competing groups around a common cause. Revere’s ride might never have been successful had he not first convinced several distinct Boston patriot groups, each with hundreds of influential citizens, to work together. “These groups all had their own focus and goals, with few connections and little or no formal communication between them,” says Spencer. “There was little overlap between them, and no overarching organization or command structure uniting them.” That is, until Revere took charge.

Purpose Power

Many factors contributed to the victory over the British—and the creation of the US Constitution, for that matter—but none perhaps more important than how everyone rallied around a common purpose. The Founding Fathers and the new country’s citizens all firmly believed in independence and came together to achieve it. Today, employees, consumers, and investors are demanding that organizations stand for more than just profit. They want to work at and back companies and leaders who are committed to making a positive social contribution. If harnessed correctly, purpose creates the conditions for success.

By Signe Spencer & Kevin Cashman
USA flag pattern on a ribbon.
Diversity of Thought

Diversity of Thought

Preparing your organization for Digital Transformation

During the last 20 years, companies around the world had started the conversation about diversity. In the 90s, it was about gender and race, mostly. In more recent years, the buzz added inclusion, as we started to talk about diversity and inclusion (D&I) and extended its realm to host sexual orientation and preferences.

That was until Millennials took charge of the work environment. For them, D&I is a given, not a policy. They expect diversity, are used to it and reclaim it as a societal norm. And for them -and progressively for all of us in the worldwide workforce- D&I goes well beyond race, gender, age, origin and sexual orientation: diversity is diversity of thought.

For any company embarked in a digital transformation journey, embracing diversity of thought as a core cultural trait is of the utmost importance: innovation requires a good chunk of divergence of viewpoints to avoid group-thinking and tap into unchartered ideas and paradigms. Variety of thought, ideas, perspectives and points of view is supported by a multigenerational workforce, that welcomes all generations (from baby-boomers to Gen Z, and the occasional silent generation representative), as well as different upbringings and journeys of life, to unlock the power of crowdsourcing.

The wisdom of the crowd, as the ultimate catalyst to try the unknown, embrace failure and its consequent learning, push limits and cross-over from one field of experience to the another, constitutes the bedrock to design and deliver a remarkable and memorable client experience with your brand.

Companies shall include a roadmap to attract and retain a diverse workforce as part of their People Strategy. This will, in turn, require leaders capable to deal with the potential friction of the different, and provide a way out for teams to unlock the power of the divergent and new.

This organizational capability is key to ensure business continuity and sustainability, as companies successful ride the wave of digital transformation.

by Helena Herrero (2018)

Mar 7, 2017: Weekly Curated Thought-Sharing on Digital Disruption, Applied Neuroscience and Other Interesting Related Matters

Mar 7, 2017: Weekly Curated Thought-Sharing on Digital Disruption, Applied Neuroscience and Other Interesting Related Matters


5 things that must change to end gender inequality at work

Written by Vyacheslav Polonski Network Scientist, Oxford Internet Institute.

Curated by Helena M. Herrero Lamuedra

Human progress is a curious thing. It took less than 40 years to put a man on the moon, but it will take 170 years to put a woman in the board room in many places on our planet. According to the latest Global Gender Gap Report, this is the number of years before we close the global economic gender gap. Closing the global political gender gap is projected to take even longer.

There is no denying that the state of gender parity in the modern workplace is indeed alarming. Progress on some gender equality issues like discrimination and harassment is under way, but other areas like career development show little to no improvement. For example, only 3% of Fortune 500 companies have a female CEO. The share of women in FTSE 100 boards of directors remains stagnant at 12%. A quarter of all FTSE 100 boards are, in fact, still comprised of 100% men. No matter where you are, there are immense hurdles that women around the world have to face when it comes to career advancement.

Businesses remain stifled by entrenched leadership groups that claim these ostensible gender inequalities are related to issues of choice, not selection. According to them, the lack of female talent in management teams stems from the “different choices” that women tend to make throughout their careers. But is it really a matter of different ambitions and career choices? Or are we facing a much more systemic problem that permeates the whole of society?

A recent survey by the Harvard Business Review and Bain & Company finds overwhelming evidence for the shocking state of gender parity in today’s business world. A closer look at the data indicates that even though women are equally competent and equally suited for leadership positions, there are serious structural factors that hinder their advancement to the higher echelons of corporate hierarchies.

On the one hand, there are severe perception gaps that make the very discussion of gender parity in the workplace difficult. While over two-thirds of surveyed men indicated that, according to their opinion, women shared equal opportunities at their workplace, less than a third of surveyed women said they felt the same. Furthermore, 80% of women agreed that gender parity needs to become a strategic business imperative in their organization. By contrast, only 48% of men agreed with that statement. This stark contrast is indicative of a concerning perception gap on the state of gender parity, permitting some men and women to live in their own factual universe. Given these different perceptions of the problem at hand, it is not surprising that mostly male-led companies have been slow to adapt to the new reality.

On the other hand, there are cultural factors that impede progress towards greater parity. In many societies, there are deep-rooted gender stereotypes about the role of women as “caregivers” and men as “breadwinners”. The abovementioned HBR survey finds that, for 80% of women, these stereotypes are no longer plausible. Instead, these women assert that both men and women are equally good caregivers at home. Along similar lines, 77% of men believed that their partner should be the one making the career sacrifice for the sake of their family. However, only 53% of men said they were ready to make their own compromises for the sake of the household. Subconscious biases like this persist and it is evident that gender roles should not be used as a pretext for curbing women’s career development.

Therefore, there seems to be no compelling reason to argue that gender parity is just a minor PR issue that does not require extensive managerial attention. On the contrary, in order to effectively address these challenges, management teams need to act decisively and consider implementing the following five steps towards greater gender parity at work:

1. Systematically gather data to establish common ground for a discussion of gender inequality in the workplace. Gender parity metrics can, in fact, contribute to more open dialogue and a conversation that is based on facts, rather than speculation.

2. Change company culture to eliminate gender stereotypes associated with work-life balance programs. This entails promoting gender-neutral flexible career paths and actively encouraging all employees to take advantage of these opportunities.

3. Modify the performance review process to prevent structural disadvantages for people who seize work-life balance opportunities. At the same time, remind team leaders not to penalize employees for their needed level of additional flexibility.

4. Keep searching for potential recruits until gender balanced is reached. Instead of implementing rigid quotas, continue to look for great candidates until there are an equal number of male and female candidates in the talent pool.

5. Finally and most importantly, make gender parity a strategic objective for the organization. The top-down commitment to addressing this issue is imperative, because it contributes to a progressive company culture that is based on accountability and equality.

170 years to close the economic gender gap is a timeframe we do not have to accept. We can do better than that. Martin Luther King Jr. once said that “human progress is neither automatic nor inevitable; it requires the tireless exertions and passionate concern of dedicated individuals”.

This is why we should be optimistic. By actively promoting gender parity, facilitating flexible career growth and empowering more female leadership, we should be able to realistically accomplish this goal in our lifetimes