By Victoria Ayodeji
n the UK, women's representation in leadership positions has been a topic of concern. According to a 2021 report by PwC, only 6.9% of CEO positions in the UK's top 350 companies were held by women. Furthermore, the Hampton-Alexander Review found that as of 2020, over a third (34.3%) of FTSE 350 companies still had all-male boards.
In a keynote that kicked of the Women and Power Summit, CEO and Founder of The Stack World, Sharmadean Reid MBE explored how the principles of Soft Power can be used as a new model of individual leadership.
Soft Power is a political term that was first popularised by the American Political Scientist, Joseph Nye in the late 1980’s. It refers to the ability to influence the behaviour of others and achieve desired outcomes and objectives through attraction and persuasion, rather than through force or coercion.
Traditional leadership models that have been popularised often relies on assertiveness and aggressive tactics to achieve its goals. However, Soft Power calls for a more subtle and persuasive approach. It asks leaders to inspire their teams in their workforce, it encourages nation leaders to inspire their citizens and diverse groups to achieve objectives through the power of promoting shared ideas, values and a mutual understanding rather than by sheer force. By embodying this, leaders can create a more inclusive and motivating environment by harnessing Soft Power.
Soft Power also promotes a shift from cutthroat competition to collaboration. Instead of viewing the corporate world as a battlefield, leaders can choose to work more collaboratively with their peers in their collective industries. By sharing knowledge, resources, and ideas, individuals can collectively raise the bar for leadership as a whole. This approach not only promotes gender diversity but also fosters more inclusive, productive, and innovative work environments and both global and local institutions.
Incorporating political and moral standpoints into the workplace is another hallmark of Soft Power leadership. This means actively advocating for social issues such as gender equality and climate change; by taking a stance on these crucial matters, leaders can attract like-minded individuals who share their values, creating a more purpose-driven and passionate workforce.
Sharmadean’s exploration of Soft Power as a leadership paradigm was a powerful reminder that true leadership isn't about dominance or power plays. It's about the ability to influence and persuade through the creative force of one's ideas and values. By adopting Soft Power principles, we can pave the way for a new era of leadership that is more inclusive, equitable, and creates better outcomes for the most marginalised in our society.
The statistics on women in leadership positions may have a long way to go before dramatically improving across certain industries and sectors, but the adoption of Soft Power offers a glimmer of hope for a brighter, more gender-balanced future in more inclusive and diverse work environments and institutions. Embracing Soft Power as a new model of individual leadership is essential for breaking the glass ceiling that limits women's representation in global leadership positions, it is truly the path forward.
If you didn’t get a chance to attend Sharmadean’s keynote address at the Women and Power Summit you can watch the replay on the Stack World app.
Photos courtesy of Kiran Gidda.
How can we use the principles of Soft Power as a new model of individual leadership?
By Victoria Ayodeji
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