Redefining Leadership

As many at the Third Metric conference have stated, traditional models of success have often focused on money and power, with the related components of individual ambition, advancement and even popularity. Challenging traditional notions of success offers us an opportunity to incorporate and value a diverse chorus of voices, skills and talents.

As we look at our fast-changing, more "flat" and diverse global marketplace, we see an increase in the number of women, people of color and ethnic minorities as traditional and non-traditional leaders. As our world changes, it will be important for us to expand our ideas and expectations of leadership, leadership models and who we see as leaders.

We traditionally think of a "strong" business leader as someone who speaks up for themselves and self-promotes. We encourage people to work on their "leadership presence" and create models and reward systems in organizations that focus on the pursuit of money and power. And yet, in cultures around the world, we know that "leadership" is often characterized by attributes that are the exact opposite of this model: community, humility and consensus.

A recent international LinkedIn study showed that many women identified the attainment of work/life balance and flexible work arrangements as measures of "success." Spending time with family, friends and community are often essential values for many women.

A recent Huffington Post piece discussed "Immigrant Women" and success, and examined "immigrant women's views and experiences on their starting point; distance covered to achieve their goals; original goal and how it evolved; personal stamina; and contributions to America's well-being and culture." The profiles of the different women highlighted their different perceptions of success and the "roses and thorns" on the path to their achievements.

The widely-read HBR article, "Leadership in Your Midst," discusses how many professionals of color are called upon to share their energies, perspectives and guidance OUTSIDE of the workplace. The article addresses what we are missing when we overlook these skills and external leadership positions:

The problem is that those skills are not properly recognized by their employers. And no conscious attempt is made to transfer them into the corporate environment and develop them further. The result: Too many high-potential employees end up feeling ignored and diminished, overextended and burned out. At the same time, organizations are being deprived of the strong and diverse leadership they could so easily draw upon.

Our growing awareness and understanding of unconscious bias has taught us that our brains are complex and our behavior can be unconsciously connected to stereotypes. Research supports reflection and exposure to different experiences and images so that we might be more open to seeing things clearly.

As an executive coach working with many women of color, I see that organizations do not always welcome even the more "traditional" leadership traits from everyone in the same way. I have seen many talented women limited by the inability to thrive in organizations who do not see many of their skills and gifts. It often only takes one person, or one sponsor that recognizes "leadership."

Margaret Mead once said, "If we are to achieve a richer culture, rich in contrasting values, we must recognize the whole gamut of human potentialities, and so weave a less arbitrary social fabric, one in which each diverse human gift will find a fitting place." We are currently living in a less-than-perfect world. We need new ideas, new organizations, new solutions and new leaders to be a part of creating change. We need people who are mindful, inclusive and interested in creating environments that respect the diversity that surrounds us. This will mean continuing the "Third Metric" dialogue, challenging current definitions of success and allowing diversity as a path to innovation through flexible and global leadership mindsets.

This post is part of a series produced by The Huffington Post in conjunction with our women's conference, "The Third Metric: Redefining Success Beyond Money & Power" which will take place in New York on June 6, 2013. To read all of the posts in the series and learn more about the conference, click here. Join the conversation on Twitter #ThirdMetric.