Monday, November 30, 2009

The Future of Work: Millenials Will Lead the Way

If science allows us to live indefinitely within our lifetime, as a biotech entrepeneur recently suggested to me, most people will also need to work indefinitely. Instead of a 20, 30, or 40-year career, we could see 60, 80, 100-year long work lives. Even those who create a nest egg may want the continued meaning derived from productive work.

Generation Y, or "the Millenials", is already preparing itself for this new world. On some level, Millenials already know they will work longer than their parent's generation because they realize that Social Security will not be around for them. And, perhaps because they know they will work for a loooong time, they realize they will have to enjoy work and integrate work into their lives. They value flexibility and happiness at work over career ladders, job security and a focus on income. This contrasts with Baby Boomers, who are accustomed to a traditional formula of hard work and acceptance of hierarchy for high pay.

This new flexible work world is already upon us. I’ve seen an estimate that 25% of professionals currently work in some sort of flexible or consulting arrangement. At a recent Georgetown Tech Alliance gathering at Google, panelists from Elance, Flexperience and LiveOps estimated that 50% of professional positions will be flexible positions within 10 years.

In a shrinking job market with longer work lives, those with a more entrepeneurial spirit and flexible focus will excel.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Bar Mitzvah as Leadership Development

I attended my first bar mitzvah this weekend and was struck by the extent of its leadership lessons. My nephew, Nathaniel who made his bar mitzvah, was on the spot in front of his congregation of 80 people for 2 1/2 hours. He shared the podium with the ever-encouraging and risk-taking rabbi. With her guidance, he led chants, read Hebrew script aloud, welcomed guests to the front. Nathaniel even gave his own insightful and humorous speech tying together the meaning of the Torah section that he had read and one of the chants. After awhile, Nathaniel looked completely relaxed and I thought to myself, "Wow, he's been bored into leadership." What a brilliant strategy!

My confirmation in the Catholic church was a whir of white dresses and curtsys. I remember little about it. My nephew will be building on the skills he learned for the rest of his life.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Finding Hope in Dirty Politics

My response to the Arizona Republic article "Phoenix council-seat battle goes to bitter end":

In your article, “Phoenix council-seat battle goes to bitter end”, you write “The councilman (Sal DiCiccio) fired his own salvo, urging the IRS to investigate Kennedy's 501(c)(4) non-profit Emerge Arizona: Women Leaders for a Democratic Future. Emerge Arizona, he argued, benefits only those who pledge support for the Democratic Party and its candidates.”

Either Sal doesn’t know what a 501(c)(4) is or he is exploiting the eye-glazing tax code to muddy the waters for voters. A 501(c)(3) is a traditional non-profit doing good things, like the American Red Cross or the YMCA. When you make a donation, you get a tax deduction. Then, there are 501(c)(4) organizations, like Emerge Arizona, and its Republican counterpart, Winning Women. Donors to these group do not get a tax deduction and these groups have “an unlimited ability to lobby for legislation and the ability to participate in political campaigns and elections”, according to the IRS website. All of Emerge Arizona’s activities are well within the IRS definition.

The US is 84th in the world in women’s representation at the federal level. It is groups like Emerge Arizona that are giving women the skills and networks that they need to run for office.

Dana Kennedy is Emerge Arizona’s part-time Executive Director. In her role of training other Democratic women, Dana is tireless, resourceful and intensely committed. These are the same qualities that Dana brought to her race for City Council.

The incumbent took a conventional approach to funding his campaign. He accepted donations from developers who explicitly have issues currently before the City Council. He also has personal financial interests in matters before the council.

By contrast, I saw Dana reject a campaign contribution from someone who is suing the City of Phoenix on behalf of a client, though this issue would not confront the City Council itself. Given that Dana chose to set the highest standard for her campaign, with the ideal of removing donations that can cloud a public servant’s judgment, I find it ironic that the incumbent would attack her integrity. My hope is that we have more candidates like Dana Kennedy, whose idealism, commitment and integrity will make the political process better.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Top Picks for Women's Leadership Books

My favorite books about women's leadership have one thing in common: I almost didn't read them. Their titles did not reflect the full scope of the books and I was interested in broader themes and research. I am glad I took a closer look and highly recommend the following books:

"The Female Brain" by Louann Brizendine, MD

I loved this book because it describes men and women's brains and escribes the the brain's gendered physiological and hormonal differences and how these show up in relationships and the workplace. Fascinating and enlightening.

"Off-Ramps and On-Ramps" by Sylvia Ann Hewlett

This book is about more than women's transitions in and out of the workforce as the title suggests. It draws on decades of research and suggests that women have a huge appetite for rewarding careers and that they leave these careers in childbearing years, less because they want to stay home with children, than because the workplace does not reward women in ways that matter to them. Women emphasize the values of connection, flexibility, and recognition over money. Hewlett also links gender diversity to bottom-line results.

"Through the Labyrinth" by Eagly/Carli

The Labyrinth is Eagly and Carli's replacement metaphor for the glass ceiling. They argue that the most successful leaders have an androgynous balance of traits, gregariousness, positive initiative and assertion, social skills, intelligence, integrity and the ability to persuade, inspire and motivate others. In the 21st century, leaders that are too masculine or feminine are at a disadvantage.

"Why Women Mean Business" by Avivah Wittenberg-Cox and Alison Maitland

The authors make a comprehensive business case, and not a gender case, for using women's leadership to increase economic growth. They show how businesses can be more successful by drawing on the complementary strengths of men and women. This title is less known in the US as the author's are British and their focus is Europe and the US.

I hust picked up Joanna Barsh's "How Remarkable Women Lead". This will likely round out my top 5 list.