Leaders Who Inspire Change

A recent article about Helena Morrissey, CEO of Newton Investment Management highlighted some of the critical ways that leaders inspire change.
The story, Aiming at Glass Ceilings shares that she is inspiring change; increasing the representation of women on boards in the UK. This isn’t a novel change. There are mandated legal quotas in France and Norway. The US has multiple organizations and lots of grassroots efforts to increase the representation of women on boards. However, neither the grass roots approach nor the legal mandate has resulted in increased representation. Morrissey’s approach is getting real results, inspiring real change.
Tips to Inspire Real Change:

  • Clear Vision. Although many people suggested she broaden her vision to women’s empowerment, like Sheryl Sandberg, Morrissey did not get distracted. You cannot inspire change unless you are clear about what needs changed and remain focused on that vision.
  • Start at the Top. Helena focused on the chairmen of the boards. They have the authority and influence to make change happen. When change matters, you need to start with the change makers not the change wishers or change hopefuls.
  • The Right Approach. Using research data, Morrissey framed this as a business issue and made the case that more diverse boards provide better shareholder returns. There is a popular change acronym, WIIFM, which means what’s in it for me. Find the change maker and frame the change in a way that appeals to them.
  • Build a Coalition. This is a key step highlighted in John Kotter’s Leading Change. Essentially, this means that you need to enlist the support of other leaders. Early in her campaign, Morrissey sent personal notes to each of the chairman suggesting that they add women to their board. That was not favorably received. So she quickly changed her strategy to get a few chairman to support the change and then reach out to their colleagues.

Since 2010 the percentage of women on top boards in Britain has doubled from 12.5% to 23%. In the United States the percentage is stagnate at 17% with very little increase in the number of women represented on top boards.
Mandates and grass roots efforts are less effective than inspiring change by having a clear vision, starting at the top, using the right approach and building a coalition of other supportive leaders.

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