Only One Woman CEO out of The 100 Best-Performing CEOs in the World!

Happy to be back to blogging after one week "on the road", (snowy road!) giving 5 days training in a row. Team building and then leadership seminar for International Generation Y business school students from the CEFAM, Franco American School of Management in Lyon.French, American, African, Asian students… Incredible shift among young women, and men, too, in how they picture themselves as leaders in the next 5 years…


I will share some insights from this experience with you very soon, but first, let's start with Women Speakers Series!

Before writing on my blog, I like to check my tweets and favorite blogs, about women, presentation, learning and leadership.This morning, I clicked on a link:

"The 100 Best-Performing CEOs in the World" from the Harvard Business Review.

Not very surprised, I discovered the top of the list with Steve Jobs ' picture showing up.

Much more surprised, then, when I figured out how many women were on that prestigious list.

How many? Out of one hundred? Have a guess!

One!…Only one woman…Incredible! And this woman is Margaret Whitman, ex CEO of eBay.The woman on top of the 12 women leaders list I decided to blog about this year.

Margaret C. Whitman - 100 Best-Performing CEOs in the World - Harvard Business Review

If, like me, you're wondering why there's only one woman nominated, take 10 minutes to read another article from HBR,

"Women CEOs: Why So Few?" especially the comments, coming both from men and women.If you're more interested by Margaret Whitman Communication Style, skip to the bottom of the page, or even better, wait for my next post!

I can't help but quoting Anne Perschell, from Germane Consulting, whom I "met" via twitter(@BizShrink).

"We need to change the lens and reframe this entire discussion. Let's
begin with a review of the criteria for best performing companies and
best performing CEOs. Under what cultural rules were they determined?
What are the underlying assumptions about what "best" companies and
CEOs do and put into the world? Do they include a measure of the social
or environmental good vs harm; building strong families and
communities; raising moral standards? As long as the lens for
determining goodness is based on the predominant culture, those who are
seen as successful will for the most part be members of that
predominant group that creates the rules.

Women in business are creating a parallel economy that is changing
the lens, the culture, the rules and the way we measure business and
CEO success. For evidence, consider Andrea Jung's mission for AVON –
"To improve the lives of women globally."

It may take a while but we'll get there. Harvard Business may see
the light some day but is not currently a leader in transforming how we
define successful businesses and the leaders who create them. If they
were, we'd have a different list based on different criteria and more
women would be included."

For presentation skills, I believe there's a similar bias.

What used to be the predominant model of Communication Style for leaders ?

  • Assertive
  • Determined
  • Speaks at a fast rythm
  • Free flowing body movement
  • Vocally forceful without raising their voice
  • Direct and straightforward
  • Self-confident
  • Competitive
  • Convincing
  • Influencing others to share their vision and objectives

According to Spony Profiling Model, an integrative management model sensitive to both personality and cross-cultural differences, this communication style matches the "Persuader" Leadership style.

I've been using this model in my training and coaching for 6 years now, especially at Cranfield School of Management with L'Oreal Executives.

This model reveals 12 styles of Leadership, and 6 Dilemnas.

Given the large part of women Marketing directors among L'Oreal, who were looking for role models, I decided, after asking the permission to Gilles Spony, to illustrate freely his model.

I researched and found 12 women leaders, illustrating each one "archetype" of communication and leadership style.

The ideal would be to ask each of the women speakers and leaders to take the questionnaire on-line and get an objective result.

This series of post is based on my perception and personal interpretation of how these leaders communicate, based on interviews, articles, testimonies and sometimes videos.

While I think the Persuader communication style is still one of the most successful in a corporate western environment, I believe each one of us has to speak according to our values, our personality and also respecting our culture or the cultures we are communicating with.

Next Post: Why is Margaret Whitman, "Meg" Whitman a perfect illustration of this communication style?

Meanwhile, some questions for you:

  • Is there a predominance of the anglo-saxon leadership and communication model in your company, or with your clients?
  • What about non-western cultures?
  • Latin and Mediterranean cultures?
  • Scandinavian cultures?
  • Do you sometimes find it difficult to relate to assertive styles of communication?
  • How comfortable are you with a wide range of original communication styles?

5 thoughts

  1. This is a very insightful post. I think the whole issue of leadership (at least in the West) needs to be re-thought along more inclusive lines and with new criteria for what constitutes success. In my own world of public speaking, real success in terms of transforming an audience comes less from asserting your will and more from engaging the audience and turning their energies loose — a more collaborative style. I don’t think that necessarily has to be male or female, but it is often the case that women lead the way in figuring out collaboration.

  2. Re: TypePad: [Geronimo Leadership Coaching ] nick morgan submitted a comment on "Only One Woman CEO out of The 100 Best-Performing CEOs in the World!"
    Thank you Nick for stopping by my blog. As I already told you, discovered you long, long ago,(April 2001!) when I was leading presentation skills seminars to International MBAs. One of my assignment was to have them review your article “The Kinesthetic Speaker”, from the Harvard Business Review, and build their talk according to these principles!
    First time I was reading about an active and innovative way to approach public speaking, putting the BODY at the center, in an academic management review.
    I agree with you it’s more a cultural than a gender shift.
    Yet, as women seem to find it harder to get noticed, to speak up and be heard , they develop less self confidence and tend to be more considerate for others’ needs. So I usually coach them on “assertivity”, and it works.
    The good news is that we see a more “collaborative” style developing, and actually a variety of very different styles, representing different cultures, values and ways to express one-self.
    I also remember the hard time I use to give my Asian students (ah! The eye contact rule!) with training them into developing an assertive anglo-saxon presentation style, before I switched to respective coaching and mentoring, in respect with their values.
    The search for global communication style in our “flat world” has gone a little too far.
    I’m in favour of valuing differences and the richness of diversity, including introverts as well as extroverts for example!
    Ooops, carried away by my enthusiasm, should write another post soon!

  3. This is a great post Marion.
    One of my frustrations as a facilitator is getting people to understand the different cultural and gender specific methods of communication. As you mention what if the culture is not in the dominant communication style seen in books and texts.
    The more I research the more I teach the more I realise the model is flexible. What works for many men may not work for women. Some of my models as a communicator of Caribbean origin are lost on say a more reserved European and again for women too.
    Keep up the posts. Got me even more intrigued

  4. Re: TypePad: [Geronimo Leadership Coaching ] David McQueen submitted a comment on "Only One Woman CEO out of The 100 Best-Performing CEOs in the World!"
    Hi, David. What a good surprise to see you here! Thank you for your interest which boosts my writing. Let’s put it clearly, most of business and leadership theories books have been written by White American Men (Adam Smith,Frederick Taylor,Thomas Peters & Robert Waterman, Warren Bennis, John Kotter, Kenneth Blanchard , Peter Drucker,Peter Senge and so many others it would be endless to quote!).
    They have been the pioneers, and often great ones.
    Time has come to include new forms and styles of leadership, emerging from all around the world, across generations and gender.
    I’d love to see you talk!

  5. The CEO track is a tough one.
    I was listening to Conversations Live with Vicki St. Clair whenProf. Douglas Branson shared fantastic insights on how women canimprove their careers, including hitting the Fortune 500 CEOtrack! Hard to believe, but female CEO’s still earn only a small fraction ofwhat their male counterparts make. If you want some great hints on betterpositioning yourself for promotion and career growth, take the timeto listen to the podcast here: Finally, there’s a wonderful segment on Heidi Ganahl, recognized in Entrepreneurmagazine for her Camp Bow Wow Franchise. Ms. Ganahl is a fine example of successthat comes from following your passion even in the face of adversity. I can’t begin toexpress how her story inspires and motivates – hear it in her own words here: <a href="“>

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