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30 March 2015

Man, Woman? Who cares? Good leaders are the best of both

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I am reading The Athena Doctrine which is written by two men and within the first 30 pages I am unsurprised by the following statistics and insights from their research:

  • Of 64,000 people surveyed in thirteen nations, two thirds say the world would be a better place if men thought more like women.
  • An effective female leader is seen as being wise and quietly strong. She possesses  humility, candor, patience, trustworthiness, openness, flexibility and is balanced with a well-rounded sense of purpose.
  • Countries that are more developed embrace more feminine values whereas emerging economies are still more masculine in their orientation.
  • Countries with higher levels of feminine thinking and behaviour have a higher per capita GDP and their citizens have a higher reported quality of life.
  • Words associated with a masculine type of leadership are: dominant, strong, arrogant, decisive, hard working, logical, focused, stubborn, selfish and driven. *

What struck me, as I read through the examples of successful businesses and organisations across the world that are run by women, was that a good and effective leader has a BLEND of feminine and masculine characteristics.

A good leader will have a strong focus but will also demonstrate flexibility. They will be patient when they need to be but they will also possess a sizeable dollop of decisiveness. They will be described as confident, even arrogant, and will certainly have a competitive spirit. But this will be blended with self awareness, humility and empathy.

I come from the school of thought that organisations all over the world work best when men and women work together – where both are represented at the top table, when we recognise that both have equal ability to contribute. The Athena Doctrine asks, ‘Is femininity the operating system of twenty first century prosperity?’ I rather think it’s more about women and men finding a way to build leadership teams that exploit and embrace both feminine and masculine leadership traits.

I was fortunate enough recently to be a judge for the inaugural Women’s Sport Trust #BeAGameChanger awards (more details here). The panel of ten relative strangers met together formally to discuss eight category finalists. We were a group of two men and eight women. I observed the following: the room was full of fun, energy, enthusiasm and positivity; the judges had all done their preparation (no one was winging it) and there was a strong sense of opinion and decisiveness. Everyone was confident in their own skin, about their own skills set and experience. There was resilience, directness and plenty of gutsy talk. As we started to pick our top three contenders for the gong in each category we needed to reach consensus. This was interesting. This was when the feminine qualities started to kick in.

Our panel began to show the following qualities: reason, flexibility, support, co-operation, perception, generosity, creativity. Some of us had to back down on our choices after discussion and collaboration. Despite some judges not getting their own way, the discussions were harmonious. Admittedly this was an industry judging panel; we weren’t courting votes for the General Election. My point is that I saw the best of ‘male’ leadership characteristics and the best of ‘female’ leadership characteristics and both were displayed by the women and men present.

Surely this blend is the way forward. This is what we are fighting for.

* The Athena Doctrine How Women (and the Men Who Think Like Them) Will Rule the Future, by John Gerzema and Michael D’Antonio , 2013