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A Contrarian View to 'Glass Cliff' Phenomen

19 June 2016 By Will Brodie interview with Janice Van Reyk

The glass cliff is not a notion that I subscribe to.  It is laden with assumptions that I don’t think hold true.

Firstly, there are challenges everywhere in this so called VUCA world – Volatile, Uncertain, Complex, Ambiguous. All leaders face this. Regarding these high stakes situations as a so called cliff, let alone one as fragile as glass is a self defeating belief that would not serve any leader, male or female, well.

Secondly, the notion of the glass cliff presumes the dominance of the mythical hero leader – a charismatic white male with an ivy league, blue chip pedigree, who when most needed to step up and lead, cowardly declines the call to leadership. Instead the accidental Joan of Arc-esque heroine leans in and despite the odds is prepared to risk all to succeed including martyring herself. I just don’t agree with these stereotypes.  It undersells good leaders whether male and female.

Thirdly, the data on which the notion is based is selective and the analysis is simplistic. Theresa May is cited as an example but where is the mention of Angela Merkel or any number of female leaders who have or have had equally tough jobs and succeeded.

The qualities about what makes a good leader through high stakes challenging times are not disproportionately weighted to one gender or the other.