What the market is seeking in terms of leadership is changing, as research conveyed in the book The Athena Doctrine; How Women and the Men Who Think Like Them Will Rule The Future, has shown. John Gerzema and Pulitzer Prize winner Michael D’Antonio surveyed 60,000 people in 25 nations across a wide swath of cultural, political and economic diversity. They gathered data everywhere from Canada to Chile, Mexico, and Indonesia.
Their research showed that people are frustrated by a world that’s dominated by codes of masculine thinking and behavior: codes of control, aggression, and black-and-white thinking.
In a world that’s increasingly social, interdependent and transparent, the research clearly demonstrated that feminine values – like empathy, openness, collaboration, transparency, patience, and humility – are rising to become more popular than the macho paradigm of the past. In fact, two-thirds of people feel the world would be a better place if men thought more like women.
With most workplaces actively looking for ways to bring more women into leadership roles, this is great news. Women are more naturally inclined to lead with these qualities but until now most women have grown up in organizations where they are actively discouraged.
I co-founded the company Lead Like A Woman to focus on developing authentic female leaders and help women build both their confidence and careers. This work has produced thousands of women demonstrating feminine leadership around the world. What I was most surprised about though, has been the hundreds of men who have actively embraced the feminine leadership model, sharing that it makes them better leaders in the workplace, and perhaps even more surprisingly, better partners and fathers at home.
Leading with feminine traits is not often the easiest path. It takes vision and foresight. It takes courage and conviction. But it also brings out the best in others, and in yourself. What does this version of leadership look like? Here are three key ways to start:
1/ Balancing feminine and masculine traits (non-gendered) in leadership – I know all too well as a former corporate executive, and now a Founder and CEO, how easy it is to drive hard for results, often at the expense of both the human and visionary aspects of business. Bringing in what researchers term feminine traits such as collaboration, empathy, planning for the future, vision and intuition are critical for building strategy that is holistic, and execution that takes a broader view. Not only are these traits what people all over the world are wanting, but it’s a more enjoyable, healthy and resilient way to lead.
2/ Leading with strengths is another way to tap into feminine traits in leadership, for all leaders. Far too many leaders still manage with a deficit-based approach. Sure it’s how our brains are wired, but there is enough evidence now to show why it’s critical to hone in on your own strengths, and those of your people. For leaders, playing to your strengths, hiring or outsourcing for your weaknesses and helping your team do what they do best and what they enjoy doing, are ways of being a balanced and inspiring leader.
3/ People first – we hear the rhetoric all the time but who is actually living it? The best and most effective leaders I see leaders are placing people at the heart of their business, even in place of profits for the short term. The rising focus of wellbeing and resiliency as not only a personal imperative but as a very real and tangible lever for business success, seems to finally be taken seriously with business leaders and CEOs.
We need to create more positive change in our businesses, for us as leaders to be engaged and thrive and to create workplaces and a world in which our people can thrive. It’s not only essential for women to step into their feminine traits like empathy, vulnerability, intuition, collaboration, and creativity – it’s also essential for men and for the sustainability of the world today. We know this to be true. Research confirms it. And women’s stories and those of men who are sick and tired – literally and figuratively – of the status quo validate it.
Creating the leaders that the world needs right now is going to take a radical openness and willingness to embrace new thinking and progressive strategies.
Becoming leaders of the future will require new skills, a new level of permission, and a different kind of roadmap. There is no one answer. But we need to start asking new questions and looking for different solutions, like leading with feminine traits and becoming the type of leader that people are crying out for. And we need to start now.
Written by Megan Dalla-Camina.
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