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Why “Leading Like a Girl” Is Now the Strongest Strategy for Results in Business

The prevailing male leadership style of take charge, be decisive and save the day presents a problem for the workplace today. This masculine way of leading represents black or white thinking that leaves many options on the sidelines. Thankfully, today we do not value as highly this authoritarian leadership style.

How much does it cost to ignore half your resources?

Valuable contributions from diverse perspectives are not heard. It places all the responsibility on one or a very few to make pivotal decisions. This masculine style of leadership is judgmental and authoritarian. When the decision-making rests on the top layer, undeveloped leaders at other levels of the organization languish. When people do not feel heard and appreciated, they become disengaged. Instead of motivated to contribute, they mark time and do the bare minimum to get a paycheck.

It did not happen overnight.

The working world was created to serve men. Because this was the norm for a long time, few people questioned it. It looked neutral and normal. However, it has a differential impact on men and women. When a man got a promotion and it required the family to move to a new city, the woman pulled up stakes and moved. She was the “trailing spouse.” As women launched their own professional careers and held responsible positions, following the man was not such a viable option.

By limiting women and their contribution through overt and covert ways, future generations accept this as normal and the patterns of holding back women continues. This not only limits women, but it also limits men as well. Everyone pays the price.

I recall a wedding not long ago. In the minister’s charge to the young couple, he took a page right out of Ladies Home Journal from the 1950s. He advised the groom not to bother explaining his work to his bride because “She wouldn’t understand it anyway.” To the bride he said she must be dressed and looking pretty to welcome him home to his castle after a long day. The women sitting in the pews around me looked at each other in stunned amazement. One woman turned to me and said,” Let’s go to the reception and get a drink. We need to explain a few things to him.” And off we went.

What is a better way of doing business?

Embrace feminine values in leading but only if you want a strategic advantage. This is not a zero-sum game of men against women. According to Jon Gerzema, author of The Athena Doctrine—Why Women (and Men who Think Like Them) Will Rule the Future, it is about using feminine traits to solve the world’s biggest challenges. And we have plenty of them now! Especially as we emerge from the impact of the COVID pandemic.

Here is a link to view Jon Gerzema’s TED Talk.

You can start today to make these insights a part of the way you run your business

Leading like a girl is good for business (and countries). The following are eight key insights from Gerzema’s two-year project around the world along with my editorial comments.

  1. Long term thinking—think past the end of your nose. For example, investing in education and the care of young children paves the way for future generations to thrive.
  2. Flexibility—be willing allow your team to create their own way of solving a problem. It can create a new and better way to get to the same end. Does everyone need to be in the office every day?
  3. Trustworthiness—honor your word. Follow through on commitments 100% of the time. Trust is the foundation of leadership.
  4. Patience—give others the time and space to learn. Trying, failing, and trying again improves our skills and builds confidence. It also makes people resilient.
  5. Connectedness—real people show up to do the work at hand. Emotional and mental wellbeing depend on social connections with others. The whole person always comes to the workplace.
  6. Humility—even the smartest leaders do not know it all. People you lead appreciate knowing that you know that you do not know it all.
  7. Vulnerability—admit when you mess up. Own up to your own fears and insecurities. We all have them. People appreciate knowing you are a work in progress, too.
  8. Transparency—give people the facts. This also builds trust, especially in a demanding situation when you need people to trust you to lead them.

The good news! Everyone has both feminine and masculine traits. As we begin to recognize why embracing traditionally feminine ways of thinking bodes well for the future, it makes sense to pay attention and engage them. Research shows having women in leadership positions of companies helps these companies prosper. “Leading like a girl” is good for business.

© Ann Elliott 2022

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