Posts on Our Evolution 

StageSHIFT partners with executive leaders to inspire and accelerate a quantum vertical shift in conscious leadership capacity and effectiveness, embracing the opportunity in systemic complexity and rising volatility to co-create more sustainable, healthy, and equitable business ecosystems where everyone and all of life flourishes as a community.

4 Data Points, 4 Dilemmas and 4 Deal-Changers in Diversity

diversity executive coaching leadership development May 12, 2016

4 Data Points

1. The 2016 Peterson Report found that the 20% of firms from amongst 22,000 surveyed in 91 countries that had 30% or more female executives in upper management enjoyed an increased net revenue margin of 15%

2. The Global Gender Gap in Economic Participation surveyed by the World Economic Forum in 2015 is enormous at 40%. A lower gap leads to greater productivity and more sustainable long-term economic growth.

3. The Talent Pipeline within corporations reduces progressively from 1 in 50 at Entry-level Professional to 1 in 5 at C-suite (McKinsey Research: 118 US firms) despite educational parity. 

4. The aspirations to reach top management and the top job are shared by women and men equally with a variation of only 2 percentage points: 79 | 81% (McKinsey 2014) and 55 | 57% (Catalyst 2004) respectively.

4 Dilemmas

1. Most women (93%) and the majority of men (58%) recognise that “even with equal skills and qualifications, women have much more difficulty reaching top management positions” (McKinsey Diversity Research). It is well documented that the ruling majority of straight, white men largely recruit, mentor, sponsor and promote in their own likeness, unaware of their unconscious bias.  For instance, when the top 10 orchestras in the US started to recruit based on blind auditions, the chance of hiring a woman increased by 50% and the percentage of women gradually increased from 5% to 25% (American Economic Review 2000).

2. Appointments are generally made based on directly relevant experience, projected contribution and time served disadvantaging women at 30 potentially intending to have children and at 40 as a result of having taken primary childcare responsibilities. Indeed when a couple gets pregnant, men instantly think "I must earn more income to provide for my family" whereas women think "I must have more work/life balance to care for my family". These are our cultural defaults.

This rational bias leads to men being twice as successful twice during the critical decades when we rise first to general management positions and then to senior executive group leadership positions! It's through this two staged approach where men outnumber women by 2:1 in promotions that we shift from 50/50 to occupying 1 in 5 senior leadership roles! It's little wonder that women earn 24% less than men in Full Time Remuneration!

3. The predominant early leadership style for men is to be assertive, while the predominant early leadership style for women is to be empathetic. However, the integration of these two styles is essential to become authentic collaborative leaders. Because the assertive style is perceived as the norm, the female empathetic style is discounted. While men are generally mentored in business strategy assuming they are already on the right track, women are commonly mentored on their leadership style because it does not conform with the high assertive/low empathy dominant approach of their male peers.

Yet, when given a case study describing a senior executive as a Captain of Industry, in one version called Heidi and the other Howard, class members almost unanimously preferred to work for Howard. Conventional success and likability are positively correlated for men, and negatively so for women. Women must be authentic to win respect. We must evolve our own leadership style rather than adopt the early male norm and raise conscious awareness of the value of style differences and the integration of both to be effective in senior executive group leadership roles.

4. The unconscious rivalry that underlies organizational dynamics during our 30's and 40's is also challenging for many women, and indeed for sensitive men too. Being snubbed, misunderstood, bullied and ridiculed as part of theAchiever rat-race is something many people find too high a personal cost to persist with career aspirations. Competition is the norm. Conventional operating norms do not generally respect differences nor demand respectful behaviour. It is only at Catalyst, the first post-conventional stage of leadership leading to integration at Strategist, that we become authentic whistle-blowers on inappropriate behaviours and biased decisions. Download my most popular and valuable formula to hold a Courageous Caring Conversation with ease and grace


4 Deal-changers

1. Parental Leave Parity. The offer of equal leave to each parent rather than a total period to either parent legislated in the Netherlands, France, Italy, Japan and Norway, is having the biggest impact on closing the gender gap (Peterson Report 2016). This represents a breakthrough on policy from supporting the woman to be the primary caregiver to mandating that both parents take equal responsibility for caregiving. This is a major deal-changer.

2. Replacing the primary breadwinner and primary caregiver with a shared partnership based on optimising whole of life instead of income leads to enhanced personal growth, mutual wellbeing and shared prosperity. It is known that once we reach a certain level of income, more income does not lead to greater happiness in life. Many men are highly stressed as a result of their unbalanced working lives. Shifting to advancing both careers notwithstanding income potential leads to greater happiness. A primary focus on mutual personal and professional growth rather than chasing the money is another significant deal-changer.

3. More organizations are tracking talent and engagement data by gender to monitor achievement of parity and meritocracy today. However Affirmative Action is a double-edged sword leading to accusations that women don't actually merit their appointments. While it is true to say that women have been disqualified in the past as a result of unconscious and rational bias, quotas challenging men's perception of entitlement to senior roles, has the potential to become an emotionally charged gender battle royale!

The situation can be overcome by expanding the size and scope of senior executive teams. By flattening hierarchies to create wider peer-based governance structures, adding roles focused on sustainability, community footprint and business innovation to create a better future, and decreasing work weeks to 3-4 days/week, we can promote many more women without disentitling men to realize the value of diverse perspectives. Uplifting employment options so that there are more empowering choices on weight of work, where to work, when to work and with whom to work, will advance diversity. Another fantastic deal-changer!

4. The interesting thing from a Stage Leadership Development perspective, is that the final stage in the conventional world is the Achiever, resembling the male archetype of the warrior, hunter and breadwinner. The first stage in the post-conventional world of interdependence, the Catalyst (Individualist, Redefining) reflects the feminine archetype of nurturer, listener and caregiver. When we realize the next stage of Strategist, we integrate our masculine and feminine sides.

The shift from building leadership capabilities to developing leadership capacity, from lateral learning to vertical learning, is the fourth massive deal-changer. By advancing and accelerating the opportunity for men and women to appreciate and leverage our differences across the masculine-feminine spectrum while expanding our view, vision, values and voice in the world, we can all learn to genuinely collaborate and innovate to generate a more sustainable, peaceful world.

Stage Leadership Development

Achievers make up around half the executive population. They see life as a competition. They are positive, pragmatic and proactive, focused on achieving goals and creating value for customers. While they are high performers, their shadow is being hyperactively “busy” and always wanting “more”. 

Catalysts only account for 10% in most organizations. They see life as a journey. They are change agents, genuinely consultative, reflective and insightful, and tune into their intuition while engaging across diverse stakeholders. They create enormous value in bringing people together to foster mutual understanding and shared aspirations in order to move forward in a united way. 

Only at Catalyst do we become whistle-blowers of behaviours that do not meet the standards indicated by espoused Values. My coaching clients find they use this most often: How to hold a Courageous Caring Conversation with ease and grace.

Only at Catalyst do we begin to form transformational relationships beyond the transactional mindset focused on achieving desired short-term results.
Only at Catalyst does the genuine engagement of diverse stakeholders to develop a shared solution become the new way of operating instead of simply achieving buy-in to implement a preconceived course of action.

As leaders, we individuate, move into our growth zone, from Achiever to Catalyst, and then we consolidate, or create a new comfort zone, as Strategists. Strategistsnumber less than 5% today and still only 8% in deliberately developmental organizations. They integrate the masculine and feminine archetypes while retaining their personal preferences.

They use mutual inquiry and praxis power to develop strategic, systemic and sustainable solutions to resolve the VUCA problems that we face in the world today. Strategists are able to uphold universal principles through their thoughts, words and actions, and thereby transform organizational culture. At the next stage of Alchemist we develop the capacity to lead social evolution.


Developing as a Catalyst and Strategist

In my PhD Research Study exploring the developmental drivers from Achiever toStrategist, I discovered that the blend of uplifting the strategic operating context, the structures within which we work or the “outside-in”, and developing our holistic leadership capacity in terms of emotional awareness, psychological insight and conscious mindfulness or the “inside-out”, accelerates our leadership development to the post-conventional interdependent level.

In fact, surprisingly and inspiringly, each participant in the research study shifted a whole stage in a single year instead of what is commonly thought to take several, most to Catalyst, and one to Strategist with another knocking on its door. 

In my view the Strategic Operating System is essential to accelerate leadership growth up the spiral. It transcends conventional operating norms to create the strategic scaffolding and expansive space for aspiration, empowerment and collaboration. Hierarchical structures inhibit natural leadership growth and therefore limit the opportunity to generate systemic, sustainable solutions to deal with the endemic issues of our VUCA world. The 7 steps to set up an Executive Strategic Operating System are documented in my book: Executive SOS.

Heart-based holistic healing of the ego’s reactive fear-based patterns is essential to resolve emotional triggers and develop mindful conscious awareness. Instead of just pressing the "pause" button, we need to appreciate that emotional triggers signal that our childhood wounds are ready to heal. Life is both a movie and a mirror. While it is a projection of our conscious intentions and attention, it is also a reflection of our subconscious beliefs and attitudes. 

By becoming more psychologically aware and exercising heart-based open mindfulness in the presence of emotionally challenging, conflicting or confusing situations, we can become wiser and more compassionate leaders. By opening the heart to heal the fears and anxieties held by our ego, and using our intuition to find our way in complex ambiguous situations to allow new ideas and innovative shared solutions to emerge, we naturally shift to the post-conventional leadership capacity of Catalyst and then Strategist.

The shift from Achiever to Strategist is a shift from:

  1. Our comfort zone of command, control, cause and effect, to our growth zone of uncertainty, mutual inquiry and emergence
  2. The prevalence of the male preference for agency to the embrace of the female preference for community
  3. Realizing that life doesn't just happen to us, but through us. Stepping into our power to realizing the teaching gifts of our life experience in order to master our co-creative power to manifest our aspirations is at the heart of stage leadership development.
  4. Asserting and defending our standards, boundaries and priorities based on universal principles and sustainable outcomes, enables us to become self-validating and hold a safe space for others to live up to their highest potential. You need to become a whistle-blower. Here is my most popular and valuable 3-step process to hold a Courageous Caring Conversation with ease and grace!

“Become the change you wish to see in the world.” ~ Mahatma Gandhi

Consider Joining the SHIFT! Program

The SHIFT! ~ the Strategic Holistic Integral Forum for Transformation ~ is the distillation of all I have learned from my studies and coaching experience of more than 50 senior executives in recent years.  

 12 Modules are set out within the four dimensions of VIEW | VISION | VALUES | VOICE integrating the Executive Strategic Operating System with Holistic Leadership to develop your leadership capacity up an octave to post-conventional interdependent leadership where masculine and feminine perspectives are integrated.

It is a 12-month Leadership Program that you can access through 121 Executive Coaching, Group Coaching Forums, and/or comprehensive online resources together with monthly Q&A webinars. Here is a pdf outlining the program and you can also find out more here. Or see lots more resources on my website 

And if you haven't already done so, download my most popular and valuable 3-step process to hold a Courageous Caring Conversation with ease and grace!

About Antoinette Braks

Antoinette Braks is a Transformational Executive Coach in Strategic and Holistic Leadership with 25+ years global experience. In recent years she has coached more than 50 Senior Executives, led Strategic Off-sites for Executive Teams, and Leadership Development Programs in organizations with outstanding results. Her track record includes increasing leadership effectiveness for a group of 75 senior leaders by 20% in one year and lifting people engagement by 30% within 6 months.

Antoinette has an MBA from London Business School and is currently completing her PhD at the MGSM in Leadership Transformation. She originally graduated with Honours in Law and Political Science from the University of Auckland.

Previously Antoinette was the Director of Culture Transformation at Businesslink NSW, GM People and Culture with energy infrastructure company Vector in New Zealand, led Leadership Capital Solutions with Korn Ferry Asia Pacific, and was a Regional HR Policy Manager with Shell for Latin America and Africa. 

Antoinette is the bestselling author of Executive SOS outlining the 7 Proven Steps to Set Up Your Own Strategic Operating System. This book shows you how to rise above the noise, get off the treadmill and lead your division and stakeholders as an Inspiring Strategic Leader, showcasing a number of success stories from her executive clients. Read the first chapter and top ten implementation tips!


Receive inspiring monthly insights.

Enjoy the first two chapters of Executive Coaching in Strategic Holistic Leadership to find out more about the History and Stages of Vertical Development. We’ll continue to guide you with our new monthly insights.

Your contact details are private and confidential, safeguarded on the well-protected Kajabi platform.