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24 Jul 2017, Posted by admin in Women, Work
00074 Jennifer Wagner Schmidt - The Everygirl_0

We are living through truly unique times. More than ever before, women are taking positions of power in our society. These women have arguably fought harder than anyone else to reach their pinnacle of success in a world that is still dominated by male patriarchy.

Yet, why is it that when these women reach positions of power, they seem to do it by being overtly “masculine” in their approach? Is this nature or nurture? Is it a function of their character and makeup, or have they had to play down their feminine characteristics in order to achieve success?

I am fascinated by the potential power of what has been considered “feminine” characteristics, such as multitasking, being emotional, empathetic, compassionate & consensus building.

It’s easy to argue traditionally stereotypically ‘feminine’ traits have been under utilised in leadership positions. If not directly rejected, then certainly not encouraged, nurtured or rewarded in the same way as more masculine traits (such as being assertive, dominant and competitive) across business, politics & culture.

It could be argued that this is, in part, a product of the traditional lack of gender diversity in positions of power. Masculine leaders who are recruiting and
rewarding in their own image, as they build their company culture and promote the next generation.

Yet, leadership styles that incorporate typically feminine qualities are proven to inspire and motivate people. Leadership styles that model, guide, enable and encourage people has been proven to trigger innovation, creativity and more diverse ways of thinking.

Encouraging feminine traits in leaders is an opportunity for competitive advantage. When feminine qualities are nurtured, rewarded and encouraged, they have been proven to lead to happier, more productive workforces & business success.

The bigger picture is that gender rules like these harm both men and women. Society’s fixation with traditionally masculine leadership robs society of well-rounded, effective leaders. It’s true that when both men and women display traits that don’t follow the rules of stereotyped gender, they are often criticised and held back for not quite “fitting in”.

Yet, there is another way that benefits both men and women. From the bottom up and the top down, we need to champion leadership styles that incorporate the spectrums of feminine and masculine traits. Most importantly they need to be rewarded equally.

As more female role models take positions of power, hopefully we’ll have more opportunities to witness the positive impact that feminine characteristics can have on business, culture & society.

In the meantime, here are 5 things you can do today to take advantage feminine qualities in leadership:

1. Champion decision-making and moments where people incorporate both feminine and masculine leadership traits. Notice it and complement it in others. If you are a manager or leader yourself, make sure you incentivise feminine leadership behaviour so people understand you think it’s important. Give it status.

2. Call out behaviour and language that reinforces masculine stereotypes behaviour. It doesn’t necessarily have to be overtly aggressive not to allow feminine characteristics to shine.

3. When decision making, as well as using information & data, make sure you check in and ask people how they feel about decisions.  Manage the rational with the intuitive to get a more rounded and considered response.

4. Take into account the bigger picture. How much does the masculine context of your organisation perpetuate the masculine dominance in leadership styles? And how much does this create precedents about what it acceptable v not in terms of leadership styles? Have a look at how this masculine dominance impacts on the behaviour of the people you work with. Does it breed a culture where masculine traits are considered more important, or more impactful?

5. Look at the type of decision-making that exists within your organisation. Does it leverage & value feminine thinking (empathic, people focussed) as well as masculine (competitive, dominant & assertive behaviours). Sometimes by simply raising your awareness around decision-making style, you can identify points where a more feminine approach would lead to a different outcome.

Photo by JWS Interiors.

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