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E2W Coach Zoë Copley - Leading in Crisis

E2W Coach Zoë Copley - Leading in Crisis

Katie.Dix / 26 Jan 2021

We are delighted to introduce you to our newest coaching partner, Zoë Copley. Zoë focuses on enhancing clarity, impact and wellbeing with her clients. You can book your free introductory call with Zoë, to understand how she can support you with her coaching here

Focusing on mindset and purpose, she draws on the tenets of positive psychology and transactional analysis, to help her clients identify and play to their strengths. Zoë works with clients to facilitate awareness of  the way they see and describe their roles and goals; thereby unlocking the clarity and confidence to plan for and embrace the future they seek.

Zoë Copley - Leading in Crisis 

I read with interest a recent article published in the Harvard Business Review which discussed the capabilities and skills most valued in leaders managing through a crisis (see charts extracted below) . The research was collated based on feedback from direct reports of leaders during the first half of 2020 as they navigated the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic. The findings are great news for women in leadership positions or who aspire to such.

“The gap between men and women in the pandemic is even larger than previously measured, possibly indicating that women tend to perform better in a crisis.”

The authors note that despite this assessment, which is consistent with pre-crisis data to the effect that women outscore men in at least 17 out of 19 capabilities that differentiate  excellent leaders from average or poor ones, women consistently rate themselves less highly than their direct reports, and indeed less highly than their male counterparts rate themselves. The article goes on to explore in depth the authors’ findings on confidence levels over time and how for women confidence peaks after the age of 60.

Clearly this is fascinating data and one could speculate as to the myriad social, environmental, cultural and organisational underpinnings for the confidence/capability gap for women, especially younger women. Suffice to say, as the authors note, the data suggests it is not capability but confidence, opportunity and bias that explains the dearth of women in senior leadership roles. It is these challenges that members of E2W are united in understanding and addressing.

But, returning to the skills valued in crisis leadership, it is noteworthy that the areas most highly rated, corelating closely to the higher levels of engagement felt by direct reports of female managers, are interpersonal skills.

“Based on our data they want leaders who are able to pivot and learn new skills; who emphasize employee development even when times are tough; who display honesty and integrity; and who are sensitive and understanding of the stress, anxiety, and frustration that people are feeling. Our analysis shows that these are traits that are more often being displayed by women.”

And what underpins these traits and skills? Empathy, curiosity, listening, compassion, resilience and a growth mindset. While the authors conclude women are better leaders in a crisis, I would suggest that it is open for readers to argue instead that women are better leaders, all the time. The great shame is that it takes a crisis, a massive global pandemic, for people to acknowledge the importance of these skills.

So what?

Evidence from Cappfinity, a leading UK strengths profile company, based on strengths assessments completed by more than 31,000 people in the UK, Australia and the US, supports the findings that these so called “soft” skills show up more in women. Is it nature or nurture? Biology and neurology or environment, context, and a complex adaptation from our hunter gatherer antecedents to ensure the survival of the species. Perhaps it does not matter. Suffice to say, in the world of banking and finance, to date, these skills seem to have been sorely undervalued.

Until now. In the words of Winston Chuchill, “never let a good crisis go to waste”. This is not a heartless and tone deaf rallying cry. Rather, a reminder that this is a poignant opportunity for all of us navigating this global trauma, to reassess and recalibrate not only what matters most, but what sort of leaders we want going forward.

It’s time to champion the strengths of listening, caring, serving and enabling and the incredible differentiation they will bring for organisations that “get it”. Like a Marvel antagonist, that which held us back, may at last be our superpower.

Zoe Copley 



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