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How Do You Measure Your Worth As a Leader?

Lori West 26 Sep 2017
How do you measure your worth as a leader?

Before you read further, identify the metrics you would use to measure your worth as a leader. Write them down, and place them in order of importance.

When you’re satisfied with your list, scan it to see where money and status figure into the equation. For some of you, these measures may be right at the top. For others of you, they may not have even made the list.

This will give you an idea of what you value most. And what you value most is usually what you give most attention. If money is high on your list, then money is a key driver in your life. The same is true of status.

What do money and status give you? How do you use money and status to create value? How do you use money and status to contribute as a leader?

I ask these questions as several organisations recently published research reports that highlight inequality in British business. CMI and XpertHR jointly explore the gender salary discrepancies, particularly at a higher level of management. Green Park, a diversity consultancy, highlights the lack of progress in meeting ethnic diversity targets.

I read each of the reports with some interest. Looking at the gender pay gap report first, the research reveals that while the gap for junior-level management has increased slightly, the gap at a senior level has widened considerably, and for women working in companies with bonuses as part of the remuneration, the gap stands at 80 per cent. 80 per cent!

There are many ways to slice the data, but the upshot is that women are still drawing the short straw when it comes to salary, and it seems the whole system gears itself towards perpetuating this inequality. There are some simple management and HR checks and balances that, once put in place, would negate this as an issue. Clearly there is a lack of will to solve the problem, which explains why it's been an issue for 50 years.

The report on diversity found that eight out of 10 ethnic minority leaders lack trust in the organisations that employ them. While 18 per cent claim to have experienced workplace discrimination in the last two years, 73 per cent felt that the majority of workplace prejudice remains unconscious.

I’m a little cynical of “research” reports, having spent many years in public relations designing research exactly like this. The reports are marketing tools that increase business pain points by intensifying them, driving business towards the organisations proposing to solve the problem. It’s one way businesses use statistics to manipulate emotions and build a case for action in the process. In these cases, guilt and shame are the desired emotions the reports seek to generate.

Equally, I ask myself if knowing this invalidates the findings. Despite my bias against this type of research, I acknowledge that inequality exists. The Western business world has not yet discovered an effective way to create environments in which all people are equally valued through salary compensation and cultural representation.

The system obviously does not yet promote equality, and let’s face it. It’s comfortable spending one’s waking hours with people who look, talk and think like you. There’s little impetus to tackle the “affinity bias” that governs most boardrooms.

At the same time, something is a problem if you continue to create it as a problem. When it comes to equality in business, the scab is permanently being picked off the wound to prove that the injury still exists. This doesn’t speed up the healing. Quite the opposite, in fact!

Perhaps the issue is that the world relies too much on numbers and comparisons to determine the validity and measure the worth of something. Stats can be skewed to validate a bias or a script, in this case the complaint that “the world is not fair.”

It’s a collective whine at the injustices of the world. Here we go again.

I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but the world isn’t fair. And yet, the same broken record continues to get played, fulfilling the prophecy of inequality in the process. Are you ready to hear something new?

How might you change your tune? Well, consider what would happen if you focused on what you love about your job. What would happen if you expressed gratitude for the opportunities you enjoy? You might stop splitting hairs about salary compensation and job titles. You might discover that your life is already working well. You might stop complaining long enough to change what isn’t working. You might focus less on what you don’t have and more on what you do have.

And you might start to acknowledge that the system is a machine of which you are a part. To make it work for you, you have to give up the right to be a “victim” of it. Understand how it works and work it. Responsibility generates power and paves paths to creativity. The impossible becomes possible. The “system” becomes merely a machine. You decide how to crank the handle to play the tune of your choice.

People in your position are already cranking the handle successfully. What made it possible for them is the same thing that will make it possible for you - clear vision, unwavering belief, commitment and conscious reorientation of internal scripts towards success by replacing words like “can’t” with words like “how”.

Creating inclusive business environments is everyone’s responsibility. Want to change your experience? Change the record. Sing a new song. Inspire others with it. Envision your future and bring it to life with goals and actions. Treat adversity as stepping stones towards growth. Keep going until it’s fulfilled.

You must compose your own song of business brilliance. When you do, please share it. I’d love to hear it!

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