By Nancy E. Parsons
Tuesday, August 20, 2013
Personality risk factors, such as worrying and retreating under stress, can undermine an otherwise strong female manager or executive. Fortunately, there are ways to curb this and help women enjoy their proven strengths.
Credit: Victor1558 on Flickr, under Creative Commons (CC BY 2.0)
(WOMENSENEWS)--While the glass ceiling is real and its consequences for women severe, its root cause has been elusive.
A recent study by our firm CDR Assessment Group, where I serve as president, sheds light on the huge role of personality risk factors for leadership advancement.
Most illuminating and new is that many female leaders are "worriers," a self-defeating risk factor. They lose visibility and hurt their credibility by not standing their ground and by overanalyzing.
But these findings are actually good news. Now that we have measured and can clearly pinpoint what is holding women back, we can begin implementing developmental strategies and solutions that work.
Executives should learn what personality risk factors women in their organizations have and, if they are worriers, to be partners in helping them learn more productive ways to deal with conflict and stress.
Executives involved with succession need to refrain from being overly jaded about a woman's tendency to worry, because this frequently results in a fatalistic or stalled career trajectory.
While the worrier trait is an inherent or ingrained personality trait, developmental support can help the leader to minimize, prevent or neutralize the risk behaviors from interfering with her effectiveness. While these risks cannot be trained or wished away completely, they certainly can be managed more productively, especially with the support of others.
Women have a role model in Sheryl Sandberg, the chief operating officer of Facebook. In her book "Lean In: Women, Work and the Will to Lead," Sandberg writes about quelling her fears and self-doubt.
"I know that in order to continue to grow and challenge my