FeMale Leadership is BeautifulIn preparation for the “Inspired Women Development Series” that I will be launching together with LFM Coaching, Buenos Aires/Argentina, I have asked a few colleagues and experts in the field of leadership development and diversity & inclusion about their views on characteristics of male and female leadership and the most effective approach to developing women leaders. Here is what they came up with:

1. From your experience, what are the key differentiators in the male/female approach to leadership in general?

  • Women tend to be more approachable on a personal level; they provide others with a sense of being seen and being relevant. The female communication style seems more diplomatic and sensitive, whereas men tend to communicate more directly and in a matter-of-fact fashion. Followers feel validated and motivated to do even more when those female traits are exhibited well.
  • When something is not working, women tend to step up sooner and ask “what needs to be changed?”. Female leaders tend to be more collaborative using their influencing skills and concerned about the organizational success. Men are more willing to stay with the status quo in spite of evidence and discomfort. They tend to be more focused on their personal success.
  • Competition between men shows differently than competition between women does.
  • Female leaders still feel they need to prove that they are “leadership material” – to others and themselves. Women tend to have a better sense as to what a team needs and are better able to identify problems and barriers to team performance. They also seem more effective in helping a team develop and grow.
  • If something goes wrong, it seems like women never forget; whereas the issue is done and dusted for men forever over dinner.

2. What should men and women in leadership roles learn from each other to become the kind of leader the world needs now?

What men can learn from women

  • Men could learn from women that the emotional side of things is relevant. Relationships matter for the economic success of an organization.
  • Become more sensitive as to what the people they lead need. Take care of them. People are critical in helping achieve the goals of a business unit. This might require investing energy and attention at the beginning, and it will pay off once a routine is built.
  • Men could learn to listen more, ask more questions and wait for answers.
  • Don’t just review your performance indicators; take care of the work relationships in your remit.

What women can learn from men

  • Learn to network like men. Don’t break up into sub-groups to exclude individuals or circumvent addressing disagreement. It’s all about finding a solution and striving towards a win-win. Women tend to be more aggressive with each other and not as pro-active as men when it comes to nurturing their network.
  •  Women could learn to apologize less, and to set clearer goals.
  • Show more self-esteem and trust your wonderful leadership qualities. This should also be applied in salary negotiations.
  • Women could learn from men that arguments are rather content-driven than meant as personal offense to them.

In essence, both, men and women alike, should focus on collaboration and overcoming potential biases. Gender stereotypes in general should not get into the way of achieving something great together any more. Equality and striving for true win-win situations should be the key priority now.

3. When you felt like you were derailing, what has consistently helped you get back on track?
There are different coping strategies that respondents use to regain focus:

  • Talk to someone you trust. Having a safe person to ‘fall apart’ in front of and someone to then bring perspective to get back on track. Or talk to a mentor to get his/her advice. Use an outside source – coach, therapist, or colleague with a similar job at a different company. Or focus on collaboration and trust the power of teams.
  • Do something totally different to get out of it: breathe, do yoga, meditate, run, cycle, swim, cook, go to the movies, paint, draw etc.
  • Reflecting helps getting a clearer perspective on past events, and your impact on the situation. Differentiate what’s really important and what is a side-show. This way, you distance yourself and gain insight on the best way forward.

4. What is the optimal or most effective way to develop women leaders from your perspective?
Unanimously, respondents said that women leadership development needed to include men in some shape or form (e.g. through mentoring, coaching-on-the-job), and comprise different delivery methodologies.
Women leaders are highly qualified, yet a little booster here and there would help them advance with more stamina. Leadership development activities should focus on strengthening their executive presence, helping them find their own authentic leadership approach and dealing with office politics or power play as well as enabling women to lead the dialogue between the old and emerging working world.

“Good leaders arise from good mentorship. As male dominance in this area (golf on men only courses, lunch in men only clubs, etc.) lessens, as men are comfortable mentoring women, and women are comfortable mentoring men and women, more opportunities to develop insights to specific leadership situations that are only learned through experience will happen.”
Mary Burns Hoff

Thank you to my dear colleagues and friends who contributed to this article:
Oliver Florschuetz – www.florschuetz.de
Jean Grossmann – https://www.bgpcoaching.com
Pia Sue Helferich – https://about.me/phelferich
Mary Burns Hoff – https://www.linkedin.com/in/maryburnshoff/
Monica Leguizamon – https://lfmcoaching.com
Markus Puettmann – http://impulsraum.eu
Dr. Jean-Luc Vey – http://www.proutatwork.de/en/

I am aware that my request to answer those four questions put you in an awkward position. You needed to stereotype, generalize, and sometimes make a judgment that seemed somewhat artificial. There are representative studies out there (as opposed to this questionnaire among friends) that show that the gender topic still is highly relevant in the corporate world. The number of female CEOs at the world’s biggest companies is continuing to fail. Actually, the proportion of women declines at each stage of an executive career path. Your perspectives from various backgrounds once more testify the positive intentions of working hand-in-hand as well as the need to put much more of it into practice. Monica and I will consider your ideas while designing and delivering our “Inspired Women Development Series”. Thank you again.

If you are a female leader who wants to get to the next level in her career or if you are a male leader who wants to develop his (female) staff, contact us. Together, we can create collaboration, productivity and a joint way into the future of work and leadership.

Lead beautifully, Annette.