The lovely Lynne Parker, founder of Funny Women (the UK’s premier female comedy community), discusses leadership styles, empowering your team and the challenges of being a female leader with some of the inspiring women who will be speaking at the upcoming Funny Women Accidental Conference. Here she interviews one of our favourite contributors, the ever-insightful Harriet Minter, founder and editor of the Guardian Women in Leadership section.
With the second Funny Women Accidental Conference fast approaching on Saturday 14th November in Central London I was keen to get ‘inside’ the heads of some of the amazing speakers and facilitators who will be running workshops and get their thoughts on how women approach the challenge of leadership.
My particular skill is encouraging women to ‘Stand Up to Stand Out’ in what is still largely a man’s world and I will be running my own signature workshop on this subject as part of the conference. I believe that having a strong female voice will take us from the current average of between 20% to 30% representation (at best in the West) in pretty much everything, from the media to public life and the business boardroom, to 50% and a fully democratised society. Will I see this in my lifetime? I am not sure but will do my very best to ensure this happens in my 23 year old daughter’s.
Our Accidental Conference focuses on ‘Women and Media’ to help you ‘sell’ yourself in person and via the diverse media platforms available to us. One of the most picked upon themes from my TEDx Whitehall talk earlier this year was my comment about how women have embraced social media far more naturally than men. This is because they are intuitive, collaborative and tell stories which glue communities together and ensure that history is continually retold.
Given this talent for female collaboration it is fitting that Funny Women has partnered the Guardian Women in Leadership for the conference and its founder and editor-in-chief, Harriet Minter, is hosting a workshop entitled ‘Writing the News: Impress the Press’ as part of the day’s events. Here’s what Harriet had to say to me on the subject of leadership.
LP: What is your leadership style?
HM: Loads of enthusiasm, lots of praise and then relatively hands off. I like being in at the problem-solving, development part of a project but I then need people who are detail orientated and focussed to take it forward. I think we lead as we like to be led and I’m better when I have autonomy. So, if you’re someone who likes clear structure and a lot of support I think you’d find working for me a bit of a nightmare.
LP: How do you empower the members of your team to take ownership and be leaders in their own right?
HM: I think the key is rewarding good performance. I absolutely believe in positive feedback, in celebrating success and in taking the time to listen to what your team are worrying about and helping them solve that. I know I can be too hands-off for some people so I think it’s important to have structure within the team, regular meetings and clear goals, so that even though team members have autonomy over their working lives, you’re all heading in the same direction.
LP: How do you create trust within your team?
HM: I’m lucky in that I have a brilliant team who all have a high level of personal responsibility but I think the key to that is by accepting that sometimes they’re going to screw up, we all do. Give them the space to do that, let them learn from it and move on. You want them to recognise when they got stuff wrong and feel committed to making sure it doesn’t happen again but equally, if you can’t bear the thought that that might happen you’re never going to give them the space to take ownership over their work. And in the long run that creates more work for you.
LP: How important is diversity in leadership? Why?
HM: Diversity of thought, background and experience is hugely important. It can make working together more complicated but I think it encourages more creative thinking and gives you insights where you might not have them. That said, I do think it’s important that everyone knows what the end goal is and is working towards that one thing. One team, one dream is important, but it’s nice when the team has different ways of getting to the dream.
LP: What have you found to be the most challenging part of being a female leader?
HM: I look and sound quite young for my age and I know that in order to counteract that I need to be more serious and thoughtful when talking to people, however, that’s not my natural style. So for me the biggest challenge has been finding an air of authority whilst still remaining authentic to myself. Even now I don’t know if I’ve got that quite right.
LP: What in your view makes a good leader?
HM: I like people who are charismatic, driven and energetic. Whether it’s in leadership, in friendship or even watching a stand-up show, I’m always drawn to people who have a high-energy style and so I prefer that at work as well. Primarily though I think good leaders are open with their teams about both the good and the bad, have great communication skills and a clear vision. The very, very best also have a little something else, it’s hard to describe but you just know they’re going places. They’re my favourites.
For more about the Funny Women Accidental Conference: Women and Media which takes place on Saturday 14th November 2015 please visit http://funnywomen.com/event/accidental-conference-women-and-media/ – Earlybird rate available £99 or become one of a limited number of Funny Friends to get a place for just £50. See you there!