Rich and I delivered a well-received workshop at the third annual WILD Summit (Women Inspiring Leadership Development from the Women’s Council of the Leeds School of Business at CU). We framed as choice (the conference theme) the ability to value and leverage both masculine and feminine strengths. We demonstrated that being able to choose which is most effective in a particular situation is an important career skill. Appreciating both approaches makes one a better and more inclusive leader; the result is broader team engagement, leading to better results. We tackled the subject of how masculine-feminine differences run up against unconscious biases or mindsets, creating obstacles for women in business – and, therefore, gender diversity.
Do women do more “helping” tasks (vs “working”) in your office? Yes, say Sheryl Sandberg and Adam Grant. They get no credit from it at performance review time but are penalized in evaluations if they decline to “help.” “Helping (which includes planning events, helping a co-worker, taking notes in meetings, and getting coffee for others) costs energy and opportunities. Sandberg and Grant say men need to “acknowledge” this problem and then speak up. I agree that raising awareness is the starting point and hope their articles are raising awareness.
In celebrating the contributions of Dr. Martin Luther King, I reflect on the dream of having people judged on their contributions, not on how they look. My dream is a world where leadership and success are based on talent and contribution, not on how we look or on gendered definitions of leadership. We have come a long way but have far to go.
The proximity of three big holidays makes me reflect on the mission of Difference WORKS — helping create workplaces that value, in both men and women, both masculine and feminine ways of thinking, working and leading. This is a niche in the broader field of diversity and inclusion and the issues related to women’s rights. Thanksgiving makes me grateful that American women have made more advances than in many areas of the world. For the season of giving, I give you my holiday greetings and a commitment to keep at my mission. For New Year’s, I hope anything negative for your in 2014 is left behind and that 2015 is great.
Women in business and professions know they must sometimes be masculine, sometime feminine. Can women do this “shifting” without burning out or losing themselves? It is natural and smart to select from different “versions” of ourselves when we move from one situation to another. But it can be costly. If a woman who prefers a feminine style has to behave in masculine ways a lot, she may become an “honorary man,” become exhausted or dis-engage. If she does so consciously, intentionally, “mindfully,” can she avoid these costs?
When you need to solve a novel and important problem, what kind of leader do you want in charge? Does the word “decisive” make your list? What do we mean by “decisive”? Usually we mean the masculine decision style – moving straight to the goal. While this is often effective, the feminine decision style has different benefits, including creativity and buy-in. The feminine style is to gather ideas, synthesize and process. It takes more time but can avoid costly misses. The best leaders can make decisions in both masculine and feminine ways and value both ways in others.