Leadership as a practice continues to gain momentum and the “male” ways of leadership execution are falling more and more out of style. Male leaders themselves aren’t the problem but the men that are in leadership roles without a desire to, or training on, leadership are failing in a way that is turning people off to those traits.
The traits most often associated with the negative side of male leadership are assertive, decisive and resilient. The reality of these traits is that they don’t just apply to men but women as well. When I suggest that men need to assert their feminine side I am also suggesting female leaders do too. Perhaps women are emulating these traits because they think they have to or the mentors they have had demonstrated these traits as necessary.
Here are some traits that are frequently viewed as feminine and why they are important in leadership.
Empathy – the ability to identify and understand another’s situation, feelings and motives. This is important for a leader because it helps to build trust. Demonstrating empathy has been shown to improve results especially in a sales environment, product management and in managing a diverse workforce.
Expressive leaders are motivated through relationships. When a leader has expressive qualities they are driven to get the entire group working harmoniously in pursuit of a common goal. The high value placed on relationships as a means to achieve results helps leaders spend time with their colleagues to get input and share concerns. This helps them make better decisions and increase buy-in from the team.
Reasonable leaders set goals that are both achievable and challenging for their staff. They are fair and reasonable in their judgment making skills, in how they treat each member of the team and the ideas they bring to the table.
Flexible leaders are more open-minded to new approaches to problems as they arise and are more easily able to effect change. The speed at which business changes, or needs to change, continues to accelerate. The best way to help the business maneuver those changes is by having a high degree of flexibility.
Collaborative leadership crosses functional and organizational boundaries. This skill will help leaders strategically cooperate with others to accomplish a shared outcome, think organizational performance. Collaborative leaders will build bridges with other departments and teams rather than tear them down or operate in a silo.
Vulnerability is a strength not a weakness. When leaders practice vulnerability they ask for help rather than trying to figure it out as they go, often avoiding costly mistakes. In asking for help and admitting they don’t have all the answers, they are able to help others grow and learn as they venture down the path of something new together. Leaders who express vulnerability inspire others to join them on the journey to realizing their vision.
Today’s work and workforce requires a different kind of leader. Leadership has continued to evolve from autocratic and directive to participative and democratic to where we are today. While the above traits aren’t all encompassing, they will help both men and women to strengthen their leadership.
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