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Cheryl Cran

Welcome to the Future of Work blog – this is where you will find posts on all things related to the future of work.

We have guest bloggers that include CIO’s, Behavioral Scientists, CEO’s, Data Scientists including posts by our founder Cheryl Cran.

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The Future Needs Leaders With Masculine & Feminine Attributes

August 17, 2019

The future needs leaders with masculine & feminine attributes.

We are at a very important time and place in the world. Every day we see examples of great and not so great leadership by both men and women, whether in corporations, start ups or politics.

Leadership attributes in the past have been primarily masculine in that the admired attributes of leaders used to be drive, autocracy, command, control, hierarchy, domination and fear inducing. Both male and female leaders can and do lead with dominant masculine attributes.

In the past leading from a primarily masculine style of leadership was equated with success.

The challenge of a masculine dominant style of leadership in today’s reality is that it no longer works on its own. Too much has changed. Technology has democratized work and worker attitudes are rapidly shifting.

I myself am guilty of leading from a predominant masculine style of leadership in my early leadership career. Frankly I didn’t know any better. I modeled my leadership style after the people that were successful and at that time in the early ’80’s the only role models I had were predominantly male. I had a certain amount of success leading like my male colleagues but then I hit the wall. Ironically it was a male leader named Ron, who held me to task by telling me “I was like a bull in a china shop and that my whole team felt I was too difficult to work with”.

At first I didn’t understand what Ron meant, I mean I was getting superb results, my clients loved me, however Ron said, “my team did NOT love me so much.” It was humbling to hear that there was more to being a leader than getting stuff done. Ron went on to coach me on the more feminine attributes of leadership which included being collaborative, being inclusive, being caring, being willing to grow others and being willing to help my team succeed beyond me.

Feminine attributes of leadership have often been lumped together with ‘soft skills’ This irritates me to no end! And I am on a mission to change the language to ‘essential human skills’.

Soft skills as they are currently referred to include, emotional intelligence, assertive communication skills, conflict management skills, collaboration skills and creative problem solving to name a few.

Here’s the thing – its not that masculine leadership style is ‘bad’ or that feminine leadership style is ‘good’. The goal is to shift away from polarity which positions each style against each other and to embrace ‘integration’ of both styles of leadership.

We coach many leaders and executives on how to be future ready and how to lead future ready teams. What we are finding is that many leaders are operating under the illusion that either they need to be autocratic and direct OR that they need to just let people do what they do. Neither approach on its own is the answer. The best leaders are integrated with both masculine and feminine leadership attributes.

Think of the best leaders that you know – maybe you are working for one right now or have worked for one in the past. What are his or her attributes?

I am going to guess its a combination of the following:

Direct with clear communication

Willing to deal with conflict directly

Vision and able to link vision to actual work for team

Willing to take risks for self and for the good of the team

Open and transparent

Willing to help team succeed

Able to provide direction under pressure

Facilitates the intelligence of his or her team

Coaches team to performance

Holds team members accountable to his or her best abilities

Provides resources to help team solve problems

Provides context and direction when needed

Encourages team to collaborate

Embraces diversity in all its forms (gender/culture/personalities)

Deals with challenges head on and takes full responsibility

Inspires team through his or her commitment to learn and grow

All of the above attributes are a mix of masculine and feminine approaches.

The future needs leaders with masculine & feminine attributes.

When a leader has too much masculine going on then he or she is too aggressive, too demanding, too bullying, too uncaring and too focused on bottom line or business at the expense of people.

When a leader has too much feminine going on then he or she is too passive, too wishy washy, too afraid to take a stand, unwilling to address difficult people and too focused on being liked at the expense of holding people accountable to the business.

We all have masculine and feminine attributes. Some of us have more dominant masculine in our personality and others have more dominant feminine in their personality.

The opportunity for all leaders as we lead into the future is to build self awareness around whether a dominant masculine or feminine approach to leadership is hindering overall leadership effectiveness.

In my case as I mentioned above having dominant masculine leadership approach DID work for a period of time however once I had people rebel against me then I had the wake up call that something had to change and that something was ME.

For the last two decades I have been focused on integrating the best of both masculine and feminine leadership approaches and let me tell you – when both are united in your approach it feels so good. More importantly the impact you have as a leader grows exponentially and the end result is engaged teams, motivated teams, inspired teams and loyalty that follows you wherever you go.