Leadership for Women – The Missing 33% Explained

Our last blog where we shared Susan L. Colantuono’s presentation on Ted Talks stimulated lots of questions from our members asking ‘What is the Missing 33%? and ‘What can we do about it?’

To answer the first question see Susan Colantuono’s article below. It makes very interesting reading:

We’ve heard it many times. Half of what you need to succeed in business is “people skills” For example, here is what executive coach Marshall Goldsmith had to say on the topic in one of his Fast Company columns:

“Your people skills often make the difference in how high you go. Who would you rather have as a CFO? A moderately good accountant who is great with people…or a brilliant accountant who’s inept with [people]… The candidate with superb people skills will win out every time, in large part because he (sic) will be able to…lead.”

But such wisdom about leadership is based on research conducted and models rooted in the 1970s. That was when nearly all US corporate leaders were men and when the way of thinking was an either/or worldview. For example, managers were either focused on tasks or focused on relationships. The inference is always that if you can master both, you will rise to the top. So, the formula that arose from the 70s was 50 percent people skills + 50 percent professional competence = 100 percent career success.

Before we examine this formula, it’s important to know that comparing the performance evaluations of men and women in similar positions, with similar tenure and in similar companies indicates that women outperform men in the area of interpersonal skills. In fact, Business Week has called attention to these findings with a cover story titled, “As Leaders, Women Rule.”

If women excel at interpersonal skills and if they consistently outperform men in this arena, then why don’t women hold many more seats at the top of organizations? There’s a trick answer: Because people skills and professional competence aren’t two halves of a whole. Together they make up only 66 percent of the entire story.

The Missing 33% ™ is business acumen. That’s where men are consistently rated by bosses as outperforming women. And, that’s the skill set that the majority of leadership development programs ignore.

Susan L. Colantuono is best known as the CEO & Founder of Leading Women. To learn how Leading Women helps companies and women overcome the common barriers to advancing women. Article Source:

If this article resonates with you and you’re reflecting on your own business, strategic or financial acumen you may be interested in the following description of strategic thinkers:

Strategic Thinkers are:

  • Future-Based:They anticipate change and look for opportunities that may arise.
  • Curious: They are interested in what is going on throughout their department, organisation, industry and the larger business environment.
  • Long-term focus: They are willing to invest today to gain a better outcome tomorrow.
  • Willing to take risks: They aren’t limited to past or current thinking and are willing to try new methods.
  • Able to prioritise: They do not equate being busy with being effective They place high value on projects with the potential for great impact and return.
  • Nimble: They are able to adjust and modify their approaches.
  • Life-Long learner: They proactively see knowledge and skills and are willing to teach others.
  • Creative: They consider unorthodox ideas.

Are you a strategic thinker? Take this online test to find out. 

Let us know how you got on in the comments below.

The WLA firmly intend to do something about the Missing 33% by directly addressing the areas of business, strategy & financial acumen at their two conferences:

London on the 14th September and Bolton on the 20th September. Book your place using the buttons below.Early bird discount available until the end of August.

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    Very strategic according to this quiz! I do like being in a helicopter looking down rather than on the ground looking down!