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In my posts, I have done a short overview of all ten areas of the masculine-feminine continuum. We looked at how Max (representing ways of thinking and acting on the masculine side of the continuum) and Fran (representing feminine approaches and perspectives) operate in each of the ten areas. Understanding these differences enables leaders to leverage the strengths — and manage the limitations — of each approach.

In a particular circumstance, one approach may be better than the other to achieve the desired outcome. In some situations, a combination of both actually leads to the best results. In all areas, just understanding the differences helps leaders enhance employee engagement.

One area in which the best approach depends on the circumstances is “How We Structure Things.” Max structures organizations, teams and even space hierarchically. Fran prefers a more fluid and “flat” structure, which I have called “network,” in which power is distributed more equally.

When is Max’s hierarchical structure an advantage? Often in fact!  Orders flow efficiently top to bottom; people know who is in charge and whose orders to follow. This structure works in time bound situations and emergencies. Quarterbacks do not have time to take a vote in the huddle; platoon leaders do not have time to consider everyone’s feelings in the heat of battle. Hierarchy is good also when consistency is important. “Because I said so” or “because that is the way it is” is an appropriate reason in manufacturing a product, landing a plane or setting a broken bone.

But giving orders has its limitations. It does not work well if the leader is looking for creativity, new ideas, or buy in. If a boss directs outcomes, it is the boss’s idea or plan; I may feel no ownership and may not feel I can offer ideas different from the boss’s, even if they might avoid a crisis or result in a more sustainable outcome. In these situations, Fran’s network structure is ideal. In a network structure, more people’s ideas are heard and considered; the result is more buy-in and alignment. And more ideas may be generated, leading to creative solutions.

A good leader understands the strengths and downsides of masculine and feminine approaches and uses the best approach in light of the circumstances. Do you have examples of circumstances where one (or a combination of both) of these approaches was better?

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