Now that everyone is polarized on his or her view of this article, it’s already time for an apology – in the first paragraph. This isn’t an article written by a man about women leaders, rather an article written by a man about effective leaders, men and women, and the traits that make them that way. So, if you were hoping for a good gender debate, sorry.
While thinking about the topic for this entry I came across a book by John Gerzema named The Athena Doctrine: How Women (and the Men who Think Like Them) Will Rule the Future. The basic premise of this book is that we live in a world that’s increasingly social, interdependent and transparent. And in this world, leadership traits traditionally considered feminine are on the rise.
I know labeling anything as masculine or feminine has more to do with perception than reality. But, it’s a very convenient way to understand what works.
As part of his research, Gerzema surveyed 64,000 people in 13 different countries asking them to classify 125 different leadership traits as masculine or feminine and then rank those traits on their importance to effective leadership.
Topping the list of desirable traits for leaders were these 7 – mostly considered feminine.
Empathy: Being sensitive to the thoughts and feelings of others.
Vulnerability: Owning up to one’s limitations and asking for help.
Humility: Seeking to serve others and to share credit.
Inclusiveness: Soliciting and listening to many voices.
Generosity: Being liberal with time, contacts, advice, and support.
Balance: Giving life, as well as work, its due.
Patience: Taking a long-term view.
Also ranking among the most desirable leadership traits were decisiveness, resilience, and confidence – mostly considered masculine. Ultimately, 81 percent said leaders require a combination of male and female traits.
As I write this and look at my copy of Lincoln on Leadership – I think we can all agree that Lincoln is considered one of the best leaders our country has ever had – I can’t help but notice that the 15 principles outlined in this book are a near perfect blend of masculine and feminine traits, if grouped according to Gerzema’s book.
Hopefully, I will live to see a time when we actually strip the X and Y chromosomes from any discussion of who is better at anything and focus solely on ability.
Since we live in a time when gender discussion still creeps in, I think it’s safe to say that good leaders are actually like Earth… somewhere between Mars and Venus. (Tweet That)