The ULI Philadelphia Women’s Leadership Initiative met on January 9th in the lobby of the Loews Hotel in Philadelphia for a modern-day book club – a discussion on lessons in leadership from the Malcolm Gladwell Revisionist History Podcast, “Big Men Can’t Shoot.” The podcast used sports stories to illustrate how hard it is for some people to go against the norms, even when an alternate route is proven superior. For example, throwing an underhanded free throwing in basketball has been shown to be more accurate – but is avoided because it is seen as “sissy”. In the podcast, one contrarian consistently and successfully used the underhand free throw technique because he didn’t care what other people thought- but this aspect of his personality caused him to be unpopular on the team.
The group discussed how important it is for us each to find our own leadership style and not worry about gender roles or be hampered by fears of being disliked. One person pointed out that emotional intelligence is an asset. A leader with sensitivity and good communication skills could engage and bring the team along for successful changes. A different leader could have had the whole team shooting baskets underhand – a literal game-changer.
Some other examples of great leadership that were shared were managers that took the time to allow everyone to be heard in meetings, using techniques like amplifying quieter contributors by repeating and attributing their ideas and giving time to talk. Another was a manager that took the time to explain the business side of a risky underwriting decision while respecting the technical approach of the more junior person. The mission of Women’s Leadership Initiative is to promote women leaders and we talked about the many leadership roles available for women in ULI and how to engage in the sometimes confusing bounty of councils, affinity groups and committees locally and nationally.
The discussion was lively and the insights are always welcome. We challenged ourselves to take the risk and be willing to go against the norms! For more information on WLI, please contact Kelly Cary at Kelly.Cary@uli.org or click here.