Book Review -Make Room For Her

“Twentieth century leadership models won’t work for twenty-first century organizations and twenty-first century problems” succinctly summarizes Rebecca Shambaugh’s rationale for her new book.

The solution, she believes, is for leadership teams to be balanced in terms of male and female membership because “ skills and abilities that tend to come more naturally for women are becoming more pertinent, and some would say ‘crucial’ in the new business environment”. Creativity, patience, intuition, and empathy are some of the “women’s leadership strengths” identified.

The pressing need for successful organisations to have diverse leadership teams is well made, although not unique; Daniel Pink’s A Whole New Mind makes many of the same points in relation to the need for a more holistic approach to thinking and problem solving (albeit for individuals not teams). Rebecca Shambuaugh’s approach is heavily based on whole brain thinking and is overly gendered.

Although Make Room for Her promises to explore diversity in relation to leadership teams,which would have been valuable, it does not. After making the business case for “integrated leadership” Rebecca Shambaugh emphasises the need for more women to advance into CEO positions and provides advice to women and men on how this might be achieved. The important role of men (and this point could be made more broadly for teams seeking diversity beyond gender) in encouraging the success of women is perhaps an obvious point but one which she makes well.

Despite her early assertion that it is not a self help book for women, this is how the fourth section reads. This section is aimed at senior women aspiring to join the executive team. Women in these roles are likely to find the guidance somewhat obvious and with whispers of Henry Higgens wondering “why can’t a woman be more like a man”. Writers such as Lois Frankel have already provided thoughtful and practical advice to women seeking to advance their careers. Rebecca Shambaugh has written previously on women’s career planning in It’s not a glass ceiling, it’s a sticky floor and there are regular references to this publication and her consulting business in this book.

This is a brief (at under 250 pages) well written, and clearly structured book which disappoints because it doesn’t achieve its declared end. For an Australian audience it is narrow too in its reliance on American examples and US business culture in relation to mentoring, sponsorship and talent management.

first published in HR Monthly, April 2013

Published on Friday, April 12 2013 by RS5059-GANDI