At a presentation given by Kevin Williams (at the time Chief Executive of YMCA England) we were shown a photograph of the people responsible for running YMCAs in the 1960s. They were all grey suited men.
Kevin then went on to explain that, currently, the majority of the larger YMCAs are now managed by women.
Clearly this cannot be the whole story – so what other changes have also taken place which might support such a change in leadership? And what might we learn from this?
I began by drawing a line down the middle of the page, putting “Male” at the top of the left hand side, and “Female” at the top of the right hand side. The following is a list of changes which seem to have happened in the world with which we work, during the same period of time:
Male to Female
Machines to Ideas/Knowledge
Strength to Nurturing
Power to Influence
Hierarchies to Networks
Control to Encourage
Command to Persuade / “sell”
Books to Internet
Vote to Buy
Membership to Shareholder or User Group
Competition to Collaboration for mutual benefit
As with all caricatures, this needs some careful handling – but much of the world we work in is undoubtedly moving this way, and we all need to be able to respond. Even where organisations still need to work to the left side, some of their activities will need to work to the right side if success is to be achieved.
It seems likely that some of us are more comfortable when working in the way shown on the left side, others to the right. The solution to this must surely be:
- awareness of the issues;
- recognition of the inherent tensions between people, disciplines, organisations, and sectors; and
- having the right teams or partnerships in place to cover all bases.
If, from where you see the world, you feel that there are any other issues which should be considered, or added to the list, I would be delighted to hear of them.