The Global Contrarian – Blog 8

Ending Institutionally Sanctioned Bullying and Masculine Imbalance – Part 1

by Jeremy Solomons

Early Spring greetings to those of you in the Northern hemisphere. Or early Autumn greetings to those of you in the Southern hemisphere. And if you are right on the Equator, take your pick.

It has been just over two months since I wrote my last “monthly” blog on “A Very Inconvenient Truth about Global Leadership”, which focused on “Institutionally Sanctioned Bullying” and “Masculine Imbalance” (which you can still read on

F-BALANCE-GENDERBut that’s an improvement on the two-year gap between that blog and my previous one in January 2014.

These two months have allowed me to hit the tarmac running in terms of my 2016 work on global leadership and they have allowed others to respond to the January blog.

A colleague in Brazil likened “Masculine Imbalance” to what Barry Oshry calls the “Dance of Blind Reflex” in his book “Seeing Systems: Unlocking the Mysteries of Organizational Life”.

A colleague in China preferred to call “Masculine Imbalance” either “ego-based” or “lower-self” leadership, as opposed to “wisdom-based” or “higher-self” leadership.

Whatever terms we use, there clearly needs to be action taken on all levels – societal, organizational and individual.


On a societal level, conscious and proactive governments can certainly bring about change in terms of “Institutionally Sanctioned Bullying” and “Masculine Imbalance”.

Goal #5 of the United Nations’ 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development explicitly calls on all countries to “achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls”.

In 2003, Norway broke new ground with a controversial law requiring all of its larger companies to have 40% of their boards made up of women. There was deep initial skepticism about these “quotas” but the law has helped change Norway’s corporate culture for ever. Instead of tokenism, women now have a critical mass in power sharing and decision making and are making a vital contribution to corporate strategy and success. Other countries have taken note.

Elsewhere, true democracy and free speech can be the best cures for “Institutionally Sanctioned Bullying” and “Masculine Imbalance”.

The best recent example of that is in Myanmar where Aung San Suu Kyi was finally released from a total of 15 years of house arrest and led her National League for Democracy to victory in last year’s general election.

And here in the USA, it will be very interesting to see what the people will decide in this year’s presidential election, which at the time of writing looks likely to feature a Republican candidate, who was recently denounced in an unprecedented way by his 2012 predecessor for his “personal qualities: the bullying, the greed, the showing off, the misogyny, the absurd third grade theatrics.”


On the organizational level, grassroots activism is important but in the end, senior leadership vision, support and action are the key drivers for sustainable change in terms of fairness and balance.

Vision, Mission and Values are usually good places to start.

One well-known energy company was very explicit about what it wanted and did not want in its blunt values statement: “We treat others as we would like to be treated ourselves … We do not tolerate abusive or disrespectful treatment. Ruthlessness, callousness and arrogance don’t belong here.”

What was this enlightened company? None other than Enron whose leaders committed all of these crimes.

So words are clearly not enough. Action is necessary.

In the late 1990s, Mark Moody-Stuart became chairman of Royal Dutch Shell – which was known for being dominated by tall, white, British and Dutch men – and soon realized that this oil behemoth needed to “re-cultivate its garden” to attract, develop and retain high performing women and other under-represented groups in senior leadership positions.

And so he launched a worldwide campaign to increase Diversity and Inclusion (D&I), which has fundamentally altered Shell’s corporate culture.

In the late 2000s, Jim Turley, who freely describes himself as “a pale, stale male” did likewise at the staid Big 4 accounting firm of EY (formerly Ernst and Young).

Believing that “inclusive leadership is good leadership nowadays”, he sponsored and participated in a series of high level forums to discuss these tough issues and then launched a series of targeted training programs cascading down through all of EY’s senior to middle level management. They are called “Leadership Matters” and they are still ongoing around the world eight years later.

Partly as a result of this initiative, EY is now fourth in Diversity Inc’s Top 50 Companies for Diversity, compared with 43rd in 2007. It is comfortably ahead of the traditional global D&I powerhouses of Sodexo, Wells Fargo and IBM but Novartis, Kaiser Permanente and PWC still lead the pack.

So how can other organizations take concrete steps on D&I and make their cultures more fair, balanced and inclusive?

A great place to start is with the unique and profoundly usable and useful Global Diversity and Inclusion Benchmarks (GDIB).

It is a comprehensive checklist of organizational standards and outcomes that was first created 10 years ago by Julie O’Mara and Alan Richter, based on earlier research by TVA and in conjunction with a group of global “expert panelists” (which now numbers nearly 100 practitioners and researchers around the world, including this blogger).

The fourth edition of the GDIB has just been completed and it now includes 14 categories in four distinct but related groups:

  1. Foundation, including vision, strategy, leadership and structure
  2. Internal, including recruitment, retention, benefits and training
  3. Bridging, including assessment, communication and sustainability
  4. External, including community relations, products, customer service and supplier diversity

Each of these 14 categories also includes concrete action steps, which can be of great help to board members, management teams and diversity councils alike.

And best of all, the GDIB can be downloaded for absolutely no fee at as long as you tell Julie or Alan what you are doing and share results.

If you want to learn more about the GDIB and other organizational initiatives to end bullying and increase balance and fairness, you may want to join me and about 1,000 other committed D&I change agents at the Forum for Workplace Inclusion in Minneapolis on March 29-31 –

If you can’t make it, I will report back in my next blog in April and I will also explore what individuals can do to end “Institutionally Sanctioned Bullying” and “Masculine Imbalance”.

Happy Spring! Happy Autumn! Happy Whatever!

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