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future of leadership

“[T]he future of leadership communication is more ‘feminine’ — regardless of your gender ….”

If you have been reading the DifferenceWORKS newsletter, you should recognize this sentiment. The source of the quote is the 2014 Ketchum Leadership Communication Monitor, reviewed by another aligned author in a piece in Fast Company. We all agree with John Gerzema (author of The Athena Doctrine). The old, largely masculine, model of leadership is no longer adequate. Leaders today (man and women) need a tool kit that includes feminine as well as masculine strengths.

The Ketchum study identifies 14 key leadership attributes for today’s workforce and concludes that women score higher on 10 of the 14, including the top attributes identified:

— Leading by example

— Communicating in an open and transparent way

— Admitting mistakes

— Bringing out the best in others.

If you have read my book or attended our workshops, it is no surprise that these attributes show up more in women. They are feminine strengths. Both men and women can develop and use these strengths, but they are more likely to come naturally to more women than men.

Our mission is to create workplaces that value feminine as well as masculine styles of achieving results — and leaders that demonstrate strengths on both sides of the “masculine-feminine continuum.” To raise consciousness of masculine vs. feminine strengths, we use prototypes of the typical woman (“Fran”) to represent feminine approaches and the average man (“Max”) to represent the masculine approach. Fran can be male or female; for ease, I call Fran “she.” We explore how Max and Fran operate in 10 different dimensions of the workplace (communication, influence, decision-making, conflict etc.)

At the core, Fran sees herself (or himself) as part of a network. Relationships matter more than status. She seeks relationships that are intimate and vulnerable. It is less comfortable for Fran to toot her own horn, less important for her to take center stage. She sees power as fluid rather than finite; she shares it and leads through her people — vs. the masculine model of power flowing “down” a hierarchy (with more at the top than at the middle or bottom). Fran appears less competitive than Max and is more self-deprecating (e.g., in her humor) than self-aggrandizing.

As a result, Fran (i.e., more women than men) communicates openly and vulnerably. She is as quick to admit mistakes and shortcomings as her successes and she empowers others, bringing out the best in them.

The Ketchum study confirms the importance of certain feminine ways of leading. DifferenceWORKS helps people understand the roots and faces of masculine vs. feminine ways of working and leading. We raise awareness of the strengths of both. And we teach leaders the importance of exercising both.

I love seeing validation of the importance of what we do!