Skip to content

Lean In To Shape The New Definition Of Leadership

The global environment is changing. Nothing is as it was 40 years ago. We, as human beings, have evolved and become more aware of our emotions. While individuals may have changed their behavior, the modern workplace is not entirely modern yet. It is time that workplaces lean in and adopt the humanizing factor.

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links. If you click through and make a purchase,
I’ll earn a commission, at no additional cost to you. 

Improve The Definition of Leadership

In this live broadcast of “Let’s Humanize the Workplace,” Vivian Acquah, the workplace wellness advocate, talks about the need to improve our definition of leadership in the workplace. There is a serious need for managers to become leaders rather than bosses. They need to treat their employees as human beings who can feel emotions and have the need to be recognized for a job well done. Managers need to show their appreciation for their employees. This is not difficult. It does not entail any cost. It can be done with just a few words of motivation. 

As Vivian Acquah puts it, “use words of encouragement so that people can, feel grateful, wanted, and valued for the effort that they’re making.” Moreover, it is crucial that the gratitude expressed is heartfelt, authentic, and not forced. It can be an excellent source of motivation that can inspire an employee to be more productive and become a better member of the organization.

A manager does not need to wait for a huge moment to appreciate their employees. “Encourage your team members to share the small wins, gratitude can do so much for building a positive culture, and it is free,” says Vivian Acquah on how leadership can be changed. 

Time To Lean In

In this session of her live broadcast, Vivian and Melissa Romero discuss the problems women face at their workplaces and address these problems. Melissa led until recently Gillette’s business operations in France and Benelux. An engineer by education, co-founder and Chair of the Lean In movement in the Netherlands, is striving to bridge the gender gap in the Netherlands and shape a new definition of leadership, as this is the mission she and her team have defined for Lean In | Netherlands

Lean In is a global Non-Profit organization founded by the COO of Facebook, Sheryl Sandberg. Lean In addresses common gender equality issues that enable people worldwide, via the power of peer mentorship, through “Lean In Circles“: small groups which gather once a month to learn new skills and commit to one micro action per month in pro of their self-advancement. 

When asked about the reason behind the need to reshape the definition of leadership, Melissa Romero says, The model of leadership or the box where we put good leaders is a very old fashioned oneThe way that a leader is supposed to act is quite unsettling: it seems necessary to be the loudest in the room, or be banging on tables.” According to Melissa Romero, the new definition of leadership is:” Where everybody can be 100% themselves and still make it to whatever their ambitions are.” 

C-level Underrepresentation Of Women

Society is made by men and women together, and it would be more productive if all of us were included and allowed to lead and contribute equally. Today, women are underrepresented all across the globe. Only 7% of CEOs are women while accounting as only 8% of the national leaders. “It is vital that women are included in the conversation and in decision making because they will be representing half of the population,”-says Melissa Romero when talking about the need to change leadership styles and include women.

Stop Wasting Human Capital

Inclusiveness and diversity play a significant role when it comes to achieving our collective potential. Without including all genders and ethnicities, precious human capital is being wasted. We all need to be allies for each other. According to Melissa Romero, not including all types of people is equivalent to using 6 out of 11 football team players. We all have different valuable intellectual and emotional capabilities that need to be utilized. 

Unfortunately, “Research that shows that we are all victims of “affinity bias,” which makes us promote others that look like us. This unconsciously hurts the progression opportunities for minority groups, given the top looks very homogenous at the time being, “-says Melissa discussing how inequalities continue to perpetuate themselves through the vicious circle of unconscious bias.

In the Netherlands, 56% of the graduates are women, while 25% of managers are women, and only 6% are in C level position. The statistics speak for themselves, showing how much potential is being wasted. 

Upgrade Parental Leave

Another aspect is that mainstream media fails to report on is parental leave and especially parental leave for the non-birth giving partner. While companies like Facebook and Uber are offering up more than 9 weeks of parental leave to the non-birth parent, most of the companies in the Netherlands maintain the legally required bare minimum of 5 days off. “I think on paying lip service, you need to adjust your internal policies to go beyond whatever is the legal burden, to level the playing field,” says Melissa Romero when talking about how the importance of parental leave. 

Mother’s With Ambition

It is also important to acknowledge that women who give birth and return to their jobs do not become less ambitious, less productive, or lose the ability to handle their usual work. On the contrary, if anything, they become more ruthless at prioritizing and driving productivity from within. However, each case needs to be treated individually, and there needs to be an open conversation between managers and mothers returning to work about how to best set these women up for success, considering topics as how to handle promotions after returning from parental leave and potential transition periods to gradually coming back to work, if this is what will allow this employee to be at her best, under the new circumstances. 

Discussing the issue of maternal leave and assumptions about the productivity of new and expectant mother Melissa Romero says, “You can go and have a kid and come back to another level if you deserve it.” Employers mustn’t make assumptions about their employee’s situation and needs. 

Communication is key in all aspects of life. As Vivian Acquah eloquently put it:” Without even talking to somebody, you’re writing somebody else’s story without even knowing their background, and we should stop that; just have a conversation with the person.” 

Fight Bias

Lean In, along with Stanford University and Paradigm, has developed a program called “50 ways to fight bias,” which highlights the top 6 biases that hold women back in the workplace. Amongst these biases, maternal bias is at the top. There needs to be an environment where the miracle of birth is not something that holds a woman back. Wanting to have a family should not affect a woman’s career. 

The gender pay gap is perhaps one of the most offensive yet common ways women all over the world are still mistreated. While companies are working hard to eliminate these inequalities and we hear more and more in the news, it remains a serious concern that needs to be addressed in order to achieve Goal 5 and Goal 11 from the UN 2030 SDG’s (Sustainability development goals) and unleash the world’s full potential. 

SDG Logo

The Gender Pay Gap

An employee that is doing a great job should not have to feel underpaid or undervalued. “We’re in a situation where still these days you have two people working for the same position, the same amount of hours, and there’s still a pay gap (even after correcting for part-time work, etc.)

 We need to tackle it from a different standpoint, starting from the companies, where the pay gap needs to be measured, corrected, and that the company held accountable for it. Along with more transparency on the salary ranges for different jobs.” says Melissa Romero when discussing the significance of the gender pay gap. 

Eliminating this gap does not come easy. It will be a financial challenge for several companies, but it is an investment that generates tangible and intangible returns. Furthermore, there is a bias against women when it comes to salary negotiations. While men are expected to leave the table if there is not enough money, women are expected not to ask for much, accept and be grateful for whatever they can get. 

Likeability Bias

If a woman asserts herself, she can be perceived as aggressive or too pushy, but you will not perceive the same from a man, because we expect guys to be this way and then they’re seen as leaders instead,” says Melissa Romero conversing about the likeability vs. competency bias that women generally face. 

Wish For The Future

Vivian Acquah and Melissa Romero ended the conversation on a positive note of hope as well as concern. They discussed how they wish of a time where all genders, ethnicities, sexual preferences, and all minorities are naturally included in the decision-making process and not because of a government quota.

Connect with Melissa Romero via LinkedIn & connect with Lean In Netherlands via LinkedInTwitterFacebook & Instagram


HostVivian Acquah 
As a Workplace Wellness Advocate, Vivian advises managers on how to keep their team members healthy, happy, and safe by using a holistic approach called workplace wellness. She is also the digital strategist for this live stream production.

This live stream will be broadcasted via LinkedIn, Facebook, Youtube & Twitter/Periscope simultaneously. Involve your audience by using live streams! Would you like to know more? 
Feel free to send a 📧 via LinkedIn or

Related Posts

Vivian Acquah CDE®