Erika Hayes James
  • Search results for women in leadership
  • Mary Barra and the GM Recall Crisis, Part II

    In Part I of this blog series, we talked about the importance of early verbal responses to a crisis as an acknowledgement. When the leader recognizes the situation and even apologizes for the negative impact on stakeholders, stakeholders perceive it as a firm’s willingness to take corrective action and is correlated with a leader and his or her organization taking on a learning orientation.

    Framing the issue as a threat vs. opportunity
    How a crisis is framed by leaders also matters to the subsequent handling of the crisis.  Crises are negative events that evoke an emotional response.  According to psychological research, events that are perceived negatively are interpreted as threats, and in turn spark negative emotions (e.g., anger, anxiety, and despair) and negative behavior (defensiveness, deception, paralysis).  Under these circumstances it is difficult for leaders to recognize the potential opportunities for positive change that can manifest from crisis.  In fact, there is evidence to suggest that in response to situations interpreted as threats, leaders become more restricted in how they process information and less generative and creative in identifying solutions.

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  • Defining the “All” in Can Women Have it All?

    There have been some interesting perspectives in my Community of WE (Women Executives) discussion groups on both Facebook and Linkedin on the topic of Can Women Have it All? The comments have spanned everything from “Yes, look at Marissa Meyer, the new Yahoo! CEO who just had a baby” to “Are they expected to want to?” to “No, they really can’t.”

    This past year I have embarked on two new career moves that individually would have been a huge endeavor, and simultaneously have been quite the undertaking—I feel like I’ve given “all” in this case a whole new meaning! At the beginning of 2012 I became the new owner and president of the Institute for Crisis Management, a crisis consulting firm. ICM has been successful for over 20 years, but needed to expand its offerings to include products and services related to risk assessment, crisis preparation and prevention, and change management and resilience.  Taking over ICM was a fantastic opportunity to take my years of work in this field and have a more hands-on impact on real-world companies, both domestic and global.

    Then, later in the year, I was presented with an unexpected, but most welcome chance to become the new senior associate dean responsible for the Executive Education business unit of the Darden School, where I was currently serving as a professor in the MBA and Executive Education programs.  Read More

  • The Parent Trap

    by Katherine Murphy, graduate student, Darden School of Business

    Marissa Mayer was recently announced as Yahoo’s new CEO. Yahoo selected the tech savvy former Google employee to take the reins of the struggling company. However, in the wake of this new hire, the press has focused on her pregnancy announcement over her strategic planning. It speaks not of her vision of how to turn around Yahoo, but rather of how she can institute more family friendly policies and lead the way in work-life balance. Her critics are not wary of her credentials, but rather her plan to return to work two weeks after giving birth.

    These days, it seems almost impossible to read an article that discusses a woman without mentioning the phrase “work-life balance.”  Perhaps it is because of the many intensely debated articles that have appeared this summer, including the recent translation of Elisabeth Badinter’s piece, The Conflict: How Modern Motherhood Undermines the Status of Women, and Ann-Marie Slaughters’s Why Women Can’t Have it All, and the Mommy War blogs in the New York Times.

    On the one hand, I am glad the issue and problems faced in modern motherhood are being discussed. As a young female MBA graduate, I am enthused that we can begin to have these conversations in a somewhat safe environment and we have role models like Marissa.  On the other hand, I am really bothered that the focus on Marissa is her pregnancy over her performance. What concerns me is the implied belief that motherhood will negatively impact her performance, when fatherhood would not be called into question.

    What we should care about are her credentials and her strategic plan to turn around a company that has lost half of its stock value in the past four years. The truly interesting story is not her pregnancy, but why Yahoo! picked Mayer. Marissa Mayer was a glamorous pick, a young, high profile, successful Google employee. However, Mayer is untested in the C-Suite and Yahoo’s strategic challenges would be daunting even to the most seasoned executive.  I’m much more interested in watching her performance at Yahoo than her baby bump. It’s time that we stop caring about her parenting plans, and start caring about her strategic planning.

  • In Celebration of Women

    March is Women’s History Month. Shamefully, it was not until this time last year (2010 mind you), when I was invited to be a keynote speaker at an ExxonMobil Women’s History Month event, that I even realized such an honor for women even existed. So I did some research and found out that the roots of Women’s History Month can actually be traced back one hundred years—1911—to the first International Women’s Day. Several decades later the U.S. Congress passed a resolution to recognize Women’s History Week; and in 2001, two senators co-sponsored the first Joint Congressional Resolution proclaiming a Women’s History Month.

    So, in this posting I honor the women of the world whose strength, perseverance, and loving nature continues to make this world a better place. I am proud to be a woman and I am particularly grateful to be a woman in America where there are liberties and opportunities for women that simply do not exist in other parts of the world. Read More

  • Women Leading UP (Under Pressure)

    The past ten years has been marked by one crisis after another.  The decade began with financial scandals in the earlier 2000’s (remember Enron, Worldcom, and Tyco) and ended with the near financial collapse in the latter part of the decade.  In the midst of the financial calamities, countries and communities have been devastated by natural disasters, extreme acts of violence and terrorism, and the life threatening H1N1 pandemic.  Add to this list the numerous notable organizational crises, including the BP oil spill and the Toyota recall, and you may begin to wonder whether crises, generally defined as rare and extreme occurrences, have become the new normal in organizational life.

    Believe it or not, and despite the media attention that would have us believe otherwise, crises are still rare events.  That said, it is undeniable that the state of business has become increasingly complex, and with that complexity comes a greater likelihood that things will go wrong, and sometimes in catastrophic ways.  More often, however, organizations are simply experiencing a heightened level of pressure to compete globally, manage diverse stakeholder needs, and produce more with fewer resources.

    There are several hallmarks that characterize an organization under pressure.  Read More