An Important Part of the Equation for Your Women’s Leadership Strategy

It’s been a busy whirlwind of speaking engagements these past few weeks, where I’ve discussed what I refer to as “Integrated Leadership” at a number of conferences and executive forums. The reason that Integrated Leadership is so crucial is that it reinforces the already compelling business case for gender-balanced leadership.

I recently met with Henry Maier, President and CEO for FedEx. Henry spoke just before I did at a recent conference in New York, where he stated so well: “When it comes to gender-balanced leadership, we are all in this together—men, women, and the organization.” Henry’s perspective is exactly on point in that it emphasizes the importance of having an integrated strategy focused on advancing talented women in our organizations. To move the needle in that direction, we all need to walk the talk.

Part of creating a successful integrated women’s leadership strategy involves engaging men as a vital part of the equation. For years, companies have generally kept men on the sidelines rather than engaging them in the conversation and strategic thinking about the development of women leaders. In my recent book Make Room for Her, I discuss in detail the important role that men must play to help maximize their own chance for success within a model of Integrated Leadership.

When I speak about engaging men in this type of model, people often nod their heads and agree that it’s time we invite men in as part of the solution—yet many don’t know how to make it happen. Here are a few strategies shared in my recent presentations that SHAMBAUGH incorporates in our women’s strategy for engaging men through Integrated Leadership:

  • Lead with the business case. Men tend to be “left brain” thinkers who emphasize logic and critical thinking, so leading with a logical business case for a women’s leadership strategy can be much more compelling to them than simply pointing out the lack of women in the C-suite. Fortunately, there are plenty of studies that substantiate enhanced return on sales, capacity, and shareholder value when more women sit at the leadership table. When reaching out to men in the organization for support of women’s leadership initiatives, use this research to help prove your points.
  • Identify invisible biases. Men may be unaware of common biases they may hold about women in senior leadership. Help create a cultural change by challenging myths that suggest women aren’t as good as men at strategy, negotiation, risk-taking, and decision-making. By intentionally pointing out that such fallacies are based on our own filters or assumptions that have not been tested you can help leverage the full range of gender balanced leadership within your organization.
  • Reinforce a sense of fairness. Help men recognize that Integrated Leadership is not about showing favoritism to women or calling them out as the primary focus. Instead, emphasize that practicing an Integrated Leadership model is what great leaders do naturally: they coach, inspire, mentor, and sponsor their high-potential talent, regardless of gender or background differences.
  • Connect with both heart and head. While men often respond to the idea of Integrated Leadership when you present the facts and business case, we can’t discount the fact that men also have an emotional investment in making this model work. Whether through their daughters, spouse, female friends, or the opportunity to leave a legacy, many men want to open doors for women in the workplace by helping to ensure there are equal opportunities for them to thrive and be successful.
  • Help men bring value to the cause. Many men have great influence and visibility in the organization, and you can help them find a role to coach women off the “sticky floors” that keep them from breaking through the glass ceiling. To maximize the benefits that men bring to the table, those advocating Integrated Leadership should help men identify exactly how they can open doors and create pathways for women to serve in leadership positions. Invite your male leaders to attend some of your women’s leadership sessions or networking events. Ask them to share their story and describe how they think they can help. Invite them to become sponsors or advocates of high-potential women, or help arrange for them to lead a “male alliance” forum. Studies indicate that 20 percent of men in an organization are ready to lean in—they just need an invitation.

In short, men are in a prime position to assist in driving solutions when it comes to women’s leadership—if they have help recognizing the problem. Men are not typically seen as playing a significant role in advancing women into leadership, yet because men have spent the most time in leadership ranks as a group, they can have a major influence on an organization’s culture when it comes to increasing gender diversity at the top ranks. When men actively mentor and sponsor their female colleagues, the culture becomes much more inclusive.

If you’d like to receive more specific guidance on how to create a model of Integrated Leadership in your organization, SHAMBAUGH’s Engaging Men is a program designed to help men understand the value of gender diversity and balanced leadership teams for everyone in a company (and the company itself), which in turn helps them see how they can initiate solutions to advance women into the senior ranks alongside them. Through the program, men can also help create a more inclusive workplace environment by recognizing—and emulating—many valuable skills from their female colleagues. These include right-brained skills such as understanding how to be empathetic, listen better, trust their intuition, and foster improved collaboration.

For some additional information on this important part of the equation for your women’s leadership strategy, you can also check out my 2015 speaking initiative, which calls out the importance of having all voices on deck. Integrated Leadership allows organizations to harness the broader spectrum of human talent and intelligence, while combining the strength of both genders. Companies that take steps to create this kind of culture are truly walking the talk.

To learn more about how SHAMBAUGH can help you build inclusive/integrated leadership within your organization, or about SHAMBAUGH’s targeted women’s leadership development programs, executive coaching, and other core services, visit

Rebecca Shambaugh is author of the best-selling books “It’s Not a Glass Ceiling, It’s a Sticky Floor,”Make Room for Her: Why Companies Need an Integrated Leadership Model to Achieve Extraordinary Results,” and "Leadership Secrets of Hillary Clinton."

Looking for Rebecca Shambaugh to keynote on Leadership Best Practices for the 21st Century? Visit


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