Is This Higher-Level Leadership Role a Win-Win Move?

When a crisis happens, women have the best opportunity to break through the glass ceiling into roles of greater responsibility – advance into senior-level leadership positions. 

There is no shortage of crises. For instance,

  • The sudden onset of the pandemic 
  • Problematic social injustice incidents or events of equal magnitude that beg for a course correction
  • Failing businesses and struggling business groups that will undoubtedly go under without a turnaround

“Glass Cliff”

Advancing a woman to a higher-level leadership role in crisis conditions with a high risk of failure creates what the University of Exeter, United Kingdom researchers Michelle Ryan and Alex Haslam coined the “glass cliff.” 

Gaining greater leadership responsibilities during a crisis is seemingly a positive career move.

However, that movement could become a career derailer. Consequently, the woman leader could suffer from not achieving the desired outcomes, scrutinized and assessed as an ineffective leader. Even more, she could experience an unexpected departure from the organization.

The Organization’s Vantage Point

Advancing women into higher-level positions align with diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging strategies (DEIB). 

Yet, the organization has a social conscience responsibility to ensure fair, equitable consideration of men and women for high-risk, failure-prone leadership opportunities. 

Organizations should objectively consider the totality of the situation, including short- and long-term business implications and the related career impacts for the selected leader.

An organization’s actions should include the following:

  1. Get a clear understanding of the problem situation.
  2. Identify a full slate of potential candidates for the leadership opportunity without regard to gender. Assess the selection decision to detect any gender-based conscious or unconscious bias, and deal with it.
  3. Define the success criteria in advance. Then, commit to setting the leader up for optimal success – demonstrated in verbal reinforcement and observable actions.

The Individual’s Vantage Point

Challenging business situations are opportunities to gain exposure, solidify professional impact, and experience marked success.  

Yet, every leadership advancement is not the right opportunity. 

Why not?

It may not align with what is vital to the business and may not energize your career.

When presented with a leadership advancement opportunity, reflect on the following: 

  1. Determine if the opportunity aligns with your values, strengths, and career vision.
  2. Assess if it will enable expanding your influence and impact inside and outside the organization.
  3. Consider if saying “yes” will position you for an even higher-visibility, impactful leadership role in the future. Evaluate the cost-benefit of your decision professionally and personally. 

An objective perspective is a good business move for an organization or individual. Contact us for a complimentary consultation.

Lillian Davenport, SPHR, SHRM – SCP, CTACC, Principal, End View Solutions, LLC

Lillian Davenport

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Lillian Davenport is a coach, consultant, and leadership strategist. Her signature program, M3 LeadershipSM, prepares you to enhance and develop your self-awareness, embrace your inner strength, and lead with confidence, courage, and impact.

Lillian’s career as a human resources leader includes roles at JPMorgan Chase & Co., Woodforest National Bank, and American International Group, Inc. (AIG), where she leveraged employee relations, and diversity, equity, and inclusion expertise in leadership development.