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One of the ten areas on the masculine-feminine continuum is How We Influence – how we get others to do what we want them to do. In a post on this area, I noted the difference in how Max (representing the masculine approach) and Fran (representing feminine approaches) influence others.  The Max approach is to tell them what to do. “Command and control” is characteristic in a hierarchy. Fran’s approach is to persuade, the form prevalent in a flat structure or where relationships matter as much as position.

Max will say, “Mary, please do “X” by tomorrow morning.” In a team meeting, he will say something like, “Team, here is what we need to do.” Fran is more likely to say, “Mary, I am working on this important project and am having a hard time. Do you think you could do “X” by tomorrow morning?” In a group, she might say, “I have this idea that I hope you will consider.” See the difference? What are the advantages and limitations of each?

The advantages of commanding or telling are that this approach is clear and straightforward. It is both efficient and effective. The disadvantages are that it can seem demanding, presumptuous or arrogant. It can shut down others, causing them to withdraw and not offer their own good ideas. The advantages of the Fran approach (persuading) is that it is inclusive of others; others feel more respected and invited to offer their opinions. The downside is that it appears less powerful, can lack clarity and takes more time. (Notice how many more words Fran used above.) And others may not follow an order phrased as a request!

If a woman uses the Max approach and tells others what to do and advocates strongly for her own ideas, she may be seen as powerful. Or she might be caught in the double bind – and be seen as bossy. A woman must be able to use the masculine approach of influencing to succeed in leadership; but she cannot overdo it if she wants to be liked!

When have you seen limitations of either approach to influence – commanding or persuading. Have you seen women penalized for being “too” commanding?