The prevailing male leadership style of take charge, be decisive and save the day presents a problem for the workplace today. This masculine way of leading represents black or white thinking that leaves a lot of options on the sidelines. Thankfully, this authoritarian leadership style is not as valued as it was at one time.
Valuable contributions from diverse perspectives are not heard. It places all the responsibility on one or a very few to make pivotal decisions. This masculine style of leadership is judgmental and authoritarian. When the decision-making rests on the top layer, leaders at other levels of the organization are not developed. When people do not feel heard and appreciated, they become disengaged. Instead of motivated to contribute, they mark time and do the bare minimum to get a paycheck.
The working world was created to serve men. Because this was the norm for a long time, not many people questioned it. It looked neutral and normal. However, it has a differential impact on men and women. When a man got a promotion and it required the family to move to a new city, the woman was expected to pullup stakes and move. She was the “trailing spouse.” As women launched their own professional careers and held responsible positions, following the man was not such a viable option.
By limiting women and their contribution through overt and covert ways, future generations accept this as normal and the patterns of holding back women continues. This not only limits women, it limits men as well. Everyone pays the price.
I recall a wedding not long ago. In the minister’s charge to the young couple, he took a page right out of Ladies Home Journal from the 1950s. He advised the groom not to bother explaining his work to his bride because “She wouldn’t understand it anyway.” To the bride he said she must be dressed and looking pretty to welcome him home to his castle after a long day. The women sitting in the pews around me looked at each other in stunned amazement. One woman turned to me and said,” Let’s go to the reception and get a drink. We need to explain a few things to him.” And off we went.
Embrace feminine values in leading but only if you want a strategic advantage. This is not a zero-sum game of men against women. According to Jon Gerzema, author of The Athena Doctrine—Why Women (and Men who Think Like Them) Will Rule the Future, it is about using feminine traits to solve the world’s biggest challenges. And we have plenty of them now!
View Jon Gerzema’s TED Talk about his research https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YxgTsyL4y0E
"Leading like a girl" is good for business (and countries). The following are eight key insights from Gerzema’s two-year project around the world (the editorial comments are mine).
The good news! Everyone has both feminine and masculine traits. As we begin to recognize why embracing traditionally feminine ways of thinking bodes well for the future, it makes sense to pay attention and engage them. Research shows having women in leadership positions of companies helps these companies prosper. “Leading like a girl” is the best strategy today for business results.
© Ann Elliott 2020
Our Canadian Chamber of Commerce said professional women - entrepreneurs and business leaders - carried the weight during the pandemic. In addition to managing their professions, most assumed the leading role with their families - meals, housework, pets, homeschooling, childcare - just like that article from Good Housekeeping said they should. Our Chamber knows that our economy depends on female entrepreneurs getting the support they need to get back to leading. That's not to say that many women didn't have partners to share the load but in general, the male's role in the workplace is still prioritized differently. And given that the female style of leadership - collaborative, creative, compassionate, intuitive - and that our world is changing, we need both styles to participate. (Reminds me of when I started my business 35 years ago how I tried to "think like a man". Now I know being a women is my strength)
Thank you, Jae, for your insights and for the perspective from Canada. Amazing that we have the tools available to us. The big question is will we use them.