February 22, 2017 – Veteran executive recruiter Jacqueline Lehmann has launched Women In Leadership International in Australia to focus on diversity recruiting for executive general management, marketing & sales, commercial and operations positions. The firm will deliberately set its sights on traditionally male dominated industries, including automotive, logistics & supply chain, and the utilities sectors. Women In Leadership will also work within sectors experiencing a dearth of female talent such as technology.
“It’s not so much the sector that determines with whom we work,” said Ms. Lehmann. “We are targeting company and board leaders who want to make a real difference when it comes to building a more diverse leadership team.”
Prior to founding Women in Leadership, Ms.Lehmann was a partner with Boyden, where she was a member of the firm’s consumer, pharma / healthcare / life sciences, automotive, and logistics / supply chain practice groups. During her career, she has held executive leadership positions as a sales director, country general manager, managing director and region vice president in Switzerland, Germany, Australia, New Zealand and the South Pacific and served at the helm of large country subsidiaries for a Fortune 500 company.
“I have always been passionate about supporting women and developing young talent to move into leadership positions. For me, it’s a buzz nurturing the potential of people and playing a practical role in their success,” Ms. Lehmann said. “Having moved up the corporate ranks myself, I gained first-hand experience about the challenges that female leaders face in building their corporate careers. As an executive leader, I truly enjoyed working with diverse leadership teams and found them to be much more effective.”
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Presenting a truly diverse shortlist of candidates and creating a good fit now requires a new approach, she added. “It’s about the client seeing potential outside the conventional, and the talent taking a broader view of their own possibilities. When these happen to mesh perfectly (and that happens more often than you would expect), the result is often an outside-the-box solution with its own unique synergy.” Prerequisites for success, she said, are a close client working relationship, an in-depth understanding of the client’s business drivers and culture, and a more sophisticated, research-driven executive search process.
To create that perfect and enduring match, Women In Leadership has introduced some tools, including a thorough leadership assessment process for all shortlisted candidates as well as a comprehensive onboarding process with continued coaching support for winning candidates.
As an accomplished female leader of large international teams, Ms. Lehmann has a thorough understanding of the challenges that women leaders face in today’s competitive corporate world. With her experience in international market and business development she offers a unique blend of executive acumen and international client advisory experience which ideally positions her as a leadership and talent advisor for both established and emerging markets.
Ms. Lehmann recently sat down with Hunt Scanlon Media to discuss the importance of diversity in today’s business world and the recruitment of diverse leaders. Here’s an excerpt.
Jacqueline, talk to us about recruiting diverse leaders. What obstacles do you face?
Everyone knows of the high (and very expensive) failure rates of external hires and recruiting diverse leaders definitely comes with more obstacles. But then the upsides can more than pay off with a candidate embodying fresh energy and ideas, and ultimately a more cost effective search. In too many instances, recruiting at the executive level is still treated in a transactional and tactical way. I am often surprised about how some organizations delegate the process to the lower echelons of management or to a recruiter without any executive management experience. Getting it right is so important. The active involvement of senior leadership at a very early stage in the hiring process is one of the keys to success. Having to fill a senior leadership position often comes as a (negative) surprise for a company. Even with a succession plan in place, appointing that successor does not usually increase diversity in the leadership team. Finding someone fast often comes at the expense of being able to cast the net wide enough to tap into truly diverse candidate pools. This could be overcome by taking a serious look and more strategic approach to building talent intelligence, in the same way corporations value competitive intelligence.
Are diverse talent pools lacking?
There are plenty of diverse candidates out there, but nobody wants to just bring in someone ‘different’ for the sake of diversity. It’s more about complementing the existing team of leaders, and bringing in the person who is truly right for the business and the job. Again, it comes down to finding the right person and creating the right fit. In general, diversity search adds more complexity to the process. For example, when it comes to adding more women to a management team, we see that women are usually harder to find. They are often less active in the job market and are not positioning themselves to be easily identified.
“Diversity is not only about gender balance. It is also about dissimilarities in race, ethnicity, generation, sexual orientation and about encouraging an environment of promoting differences in viewpoints, ideas, thinking and perspectives. If a company can tap into that, it will become unstoppable and have a true competitive advantage.”
After all, let’s not forget that our mission is to pinpoint the ideal candidate and sell that candidate on the position, even if she/he is not looking to take that leap. Basically, this means that our search doesn’t simply look at the available pool, we look at the global talent, regardless of whether that talent is seeking a new challenge. Because just as corporates don’t know who is available out there and suited to their team, potential candidates usually do not know that there are fresh and exciting challenges out there for them, either! Fortunately, uncovering this ‘hidden’ talent and selling the position at ‘eye level’ is the niche competence of a retained executive search partner.
What are some essential things companies can do to create a diverse workforce?
Cultural change remains key in creating more diversity in the workplace. In most companies there is usually no shortage of long-term initiatives to recruit, promote and retain more women in executive leadership and board positions. It all stands and falls with the leadership of the organization. This stands out in companies where ‘building a more diverse leadership team’ has been identified as a key strategy for the organization to become more successful. We see real traction when this strategy is underpinned with clear goals, measurable objectives, and linked to senior management performance measures. You would be surprised about the progress you see when ‘diversity and inclusion’ is no longer delegated to an HR function, but becomes ‘A matter for the Boss’!
Why is having a diverse workforce essential?
There is more and more research data showing a strong correlation between companies with diverse leadership teams and their financial success. So, that speaks for itself. But the language is probably not strong enough for businesses to see it as a real and a huge opportunity. Imagine what could happen in a company once the true power of diversity in corporate leadership is unleashed! Diversity is not only about gender balance. It is also about dissimilarities in race, ethnicity, generation, sexual orientation and about encouraging an environment of promoting differences in viewpoints, ideas, thinking and perspectives. If a company can tap into that, it will become unstoppable and have a true competitive advantage. The research clearly backs us up on this!
Contributed by Dale M. Zupsansky, Managing Editor, Hunt Scanlon Media