I need to take my own advice. My mission is to make gender diversity in business leadership a reality. Doing that requires creating inclusive workplace cultures that value both masculine and feminine ways of working and leading. Since more women than men demonstrate feminine styles, women will benefit from such a culture. Valuing both makes individuals more effective, creates greater inclusion and engagement and lowers obstacles to gender diversity. As a former attorney and corporate executive, I demonstrate many masculine strengths. I am working on honoring the feminine aspects of myself!
In this guest blog, Rich Grenhart looks at the evolution of attitudes about gender relations. As we better understand the value of masculine and feminine approaches for both genders, we can observe and even affect the evolution of thinking. There are vestiges of the “might makes right” world of the caveman in businesses that value competition over collaboration. John Gerzema thinks it is time to have a balance of masculine and feminine ways of thinking and leading. Understanding that masculine and feminine qualities arise in both genders frees men to demonstrate feminine strengths and women to demonstrate masculine strengths. The pace of reaching gender equality has been too slow. We need to contribute to the evolution toward gender equity!
The masculine form of influencing others is based on a hierarchical world-view. The feminine form is based on building and maintaining relationships. Those (men and women) who influence in a masculine way command, tell, and demonstrate dominance. Men and women who influence in a feminine way do so through persuasion. We can wisely use our understanding of these differences, and the strengths of each approach, to be more effective. Our understanding and appreciation of these differences enables us to be more inclusive. Leader who appreciate these differences are aware that they can create obstacles, for example, for feminine leaders who do not “lead from the front.” They can see leadership strengths in those who lead collaboratively.
Concepts of good leadership are often associated with how men tend to lead (masculine forms of leadership). The feminine form of leadership is different but equally effective. Sometimes the results achieved by women who exhibit feminine leadership styles are overlooked. The focus is on how they operate and how it is different from the norm. Getting gender diversity at the top requires that we expand our definitions of leadership.
Sheryl Sandberg goes beyond the issue of “having it all.” She suggests that women need to demonstrate more ambition. To avoid stereotyping, I suggest the question is whether women in general are less ambitious or express it differently. Sandberg is observing differences in how the prototypical male and female express ambition. The masculine way is to compete and win. Women in general are less likely to ask for what they want; they wait to apply for a position until they feel fully qualified; they have a harder time taking credit for their successes. We can coach women to appear more ambitious in the masculine way. I would like to see equal focus on coaching leaders to recognize and appreciate differences.