The Influence Effect: A New Path to Power for Women Leaders

The Influence Effect

Women represent half of all professional jobs today, but only 4% of CEOs in the S&P 500 are held by women.

Surprisingly, that percentage hasn’t really changed much in the last ten years.

The authors of a new book, The Influence Effect: A New Path to Power for Women Leaders, argue that what works for men on the job doesn’t work for women. I recently caught up with the authors (Kathryn Heath, Jill Flynn, Mary Davis Holt, Diana Faison) to share more about their extensive research and experience in the area of women in leadership.


Only 4% of CEO’s in the S&P 500 are women.


Women Lack Access to Sponsors

Give us an update about your research and work since writing the last book, Break Your Own Rules.  What have you been up to and learning?

We conducted original research to help us understand why women were so turned off by office politics and how we could help. We surveyed 134 senior executives in leading organizations, and the results revealed that women and men fundamentally disagree on the overall objective of politics.  Women said they use the tools of politics to “manage relationships,” whereas men use them to “win.” Women were far more likely to mention “creating impact and ideas,” while men were more than twice as likely to describe “carving a one-time advantage.”

Women are judged more harshly than men when engaging in office politics, and our lack of access to sponsors puts us at a disadvantage.

Also, women and men have differing approaches to power and influence. It’s collaboration vs. competition.


Study: Women are judged more harshly than men when engaging in office politics.


You start with a premise that what works for men on the job won’t work for women. Would you share an example?

Take Off Your Mask and Speak from Your Heart

This is a guest post by Dr. Quentin Schultze, Professor of Communication Emeritus at Calvin College, a media company CEO, speaker, and author of many communication books, including the newly released Communicate Like a True Leader: 30 Days of Life-Changing Wisdom. Visit his blog.


Speak from Your Heart

A fine friend and skilled speaker landed in a dreadful situation. He had agreed to address a convention of toastmasters—persons who lead local public-speaking clubs where members overcome common speaking fears and practice effective speaking techniques.

When he arrived a few minutes early for the event, he met with his friend who had arranged the speech. He discovered that the audience was not toastmasters, but postmasters who run local post offices.

He frantically tried to organize a speech in his head while his friend introduced him. Then he took the stage, mic in hand, alone with the whole banquet hall of postmasters peering directly at him. What could he possibly do?

He relinquished his facade.


“I never saw a well-fitting mask. It is a great relief to take them off.” —Robert Greenleaf


My friend explained to his audience that he had planned a speech for the wrong group. That he didn’t even know what postmasters actually do. That he was thoroughly unprepared.

Then he spoke from the heart about what he knew intimately. He told stories about his loneliness. About his fears. About the stifling lack of meaning in his own work sometimes.

My friend’s message was simple but profound: We are all first and foremost human beings, not workers. We share a common humanity. We experience fear as well as hope. We all feel this in our hearts.

Then he thanked the postmasters for the opportunity to share his off-the-cuff thoughts and feelings.

He received a long, standing ovation. The wounded storyteller had connected with the wounded postmasters. By taking off his “professional” mask, he had honestly led them into a shared, human journey of hope. In spite of being unprepared, he had served them as a great leader-communicator.


“Honesty is the first chapter in the book of wisdom.” Thomas Jefferson


If You Fake It, You’ll Eventually Fall

How to Become a High-Stakes Leader

Become a High-Stakes Leader

When the stakes are high, that’s when we need the very best in leadership. Why do some leaders succeed and others fail? Why do some not only survive a crisis, but use difficulty to produce incredible results?

These questions are tackled by Constance Dierickx, PhD in her new book, HIGH-STAKES LEADERSHIP: Leading Through Crisis with Courage, Judgment and Fortitude. She shares how to lead with the type of courage that makes you stand out.

I recently asked her to share her insights on high-stakes leadership.


“Courage is the first of human virtues because it makes all others possible.” -Aristotle


What do you mean by High-Stakes leadership?

A high-stakes leader is someone who is successful when risk is high and visibility is low.  New ventures are an example, whether they are for a new product, service, geography or method of production. Top leader changes, mergers and crisis are also examples of high-stakes situations.

Leaders who get good results achieve value on multiple fronts. As Jim Kennedy, Chairman of Cox Enterprises says, “It can’t be just about the money.” In a crisis, we need only compare the recent leadership failure at Equifax with the response of The Home Depot in a similar circumstance, a breach. The response of these two companies was wildly different. Frank Blake’s actions are a model of what to do.

My book talks about what leaders in high-stakes situations should do and provides examples from a wide range of organizations. I also talk about what gets in the way of leaders. Invisible traps include the human cognitive system, which is not a completely rational system. Our human limits lead us to make mistakes that may look foolish but can be the result of cognitive limits, the effect of emotion on decisions, the context or our own habits of avoiding anxiety.

There is an additional factor, which I include in my forthcoming book Breaking Up Is Hard to Do, in which I focus on mergers, acquisitions and divestitures. That is when we wrongly assign value to opportunities, risk, timelines, market size, and so forth. It’s one thing to think something is low risk and be right and quite another to believe risk is low when it isn’t. Even smart people can be blind when making evaluations, a part of leading. We don’t have measures for everything, and even when we do we aren’t always measuring what matters.

Perhaps the greatest risk of all is in thinking we are operating in a safe zone and being complacent.


“The greatest risk of all is in thinking we are operating in a safe zone.” -Constance Dierickx

Why You Should Join Me for a Rollercoaster Ride


The Ride of a Lifetime

Right up front, I need to disclose that this isn’t my normal type of post. It’s much more like a parent announcing the birth of a child.

Today I’m officially announcing that I have a book coming out in February. It’s called The Book of Mistakes: 9 Secrets to Creating a Successful Future.

For those of you who have thought about writing a book, but haven’t taken the plunge, let me share with you some of the emotions involved. I’m excited, sure, but that excitement is also mixed with nervousness, anxiety, stress, and, if I’m really honest, a healthy dose of undiluted, raw fear.

It’s like the first time I was on a terrifying rollercoaster in an amusement park. The ride up is like the writing and editing process, a slow ascent without fully realizing what’s about to happen. But then things change. Before your book is released, things shift, just like that feeling on the rollercoaster when you’ve crept up and up, the gears grinding, the wheels churning. You’re perched on the precipice, knowing what’s coming, knowing the drop is imminent, your stomach tightening involuntarily, your teeth gritting together.

I suppose that I should be somewhat okay with all of it. After all, each time I write an article whether here or on other sites, I’m exposing a part of me.

But a book is more permanent. It’s like putting a part of myself out into the world, wholly vulnerable and unable to get it back.

Let’s face it: I watched my wife deliver our child and did all I could to support her, but I wasn’t the one in agony.

Now I am.

It’s both an exhilarating experience and a horrifying experience. It’s like nothing I imagined.

From what I now know, and whether this book takes off or sells only two copies, I have a newfound appreciation for authors and for those who put their creative talents on display over and over again. It’s not easy.

And so, if you find yourself friends with an author, I suggest you buy that person’s book. If your friendship isn’t worth the price of the book, then back out of the friendship. If it is, read the book. You’ll get a glimpse into the mind and heart of the author. After all, a good friend is one that grabs your hand for the ride, screaming with you on the way down, not at you from below.

I hope that you join me on the ride.


*If you do order, keep your receipt. You’ll see why in another note soon.



“Everything worth doing starts with being scared.” –Art Garfunkel


“Courage is being scared to death and saddling up anyway.” –John Wayne


“He who is not courageous enough to take risks will accomplish nothing in life.” –Muhammad Ali


“Only the most courageous wring the most out of life.” -Zig Ziglar


“Courage is the first of human virtues because it makes all others possible.” -Aristotle

Phrases to Defuse Difficult Workplace Situations

Defuse conflict

Are you ever at a loss for words?

Do you approach a potentially volatile situation with trepidation because you don’t know what to say?

The Conflict Resolution Phrase Book by Barbara Mitchell and Cornelia Gamlem is for you.

It’s a handbook of sorts, a reference book, filled with clever phrases and questions all designed to help you in conflict situations.

After reading it, I decided to put it to use immediately. I read a few of the phrases before attending most of my meetings. What I found was that I was asking better questions and was a more focused listener.

I recently asked Barbara more about her work.


“Knowing when to fight is just as important as how.” –Terry Goodkind


Build Your Conflict Muscle

How do you best build the conflict muscle so that you don’t shy away from it?

Practice, practice, practice!  Many of us are uncomfortable with conflict to the point where we not just shy away from it—we run from it and give in rather than dealing with it. It takes courage and practice to have conflict muscle, but we also want people to know that not all conflict is “bad.”  Having differences of opinion can spur creativity and positive change in organizations and personal relationships.


Talk about the power of listening.

Most of us think we’re really good listeners, but what we really do is, while the other person is talking, we’re thinking about what we’re going to say when they stop speaking.  That’s not listening.  Listening is putting your own thoughts aside to focus on the words being said but also observing body language and facial expressions to really get what the person is saying.  Our ever-increasing virtual world makes listening even more difficult, so whenever possible, have difficult conversations face to face. But if you can’t be in the same place, use Facetime or Skype so least you can see each other. A good listener uses techniques like paraphrasing back what they heard to ensure both people are on the same wave length. Listening takes practice—just like any other communication form. We spend a lot time learning how to speak to be understood or how to write well but not much time learning how to listen.


“If I could solve all the problems myself, I would.” –Thomas Edison


Ask for Clarity