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What Men In Leadership Can Learn From Women

I have great women in my life. Whatever I accomplish in life, I will always owe so much to them. I had an incredible mother, two amazing sisters, and I have a wife who blows my mind every day with her abilities and insights. She gave me a daughter who is already leaving a mark in the world through her leadership. Besides these women, I am continually surrounded by some of the best leaders I have ever worked with in the women serving with me. I have ultimate respect and gratitude for who they are and know we could not accomplish what we do without them.

Unfortunately there are some who think women should always take the back seat everywhere but home. I believe that is not only completely wrong, it is extremely foolish. We men have much to learn from the leadership of women. Now, guys, before you get offended and think I am simply criticizing men, back it down a minute. In fact, I’m pretty sure there are men who typically read my blog who already have passed this one over. They aren’t interested in reading “that stuff.” Congratulations on reading this far. But consider this:

Women have been learning leadership from men all through the years, and regularly, women leaders express their gratitude for those lessons. Now let’s consider a few areas where we can applaud women and grow from their examples:

Leadership is all about contribution. Much of the time when men lead, it’s a one-way street. I lead, you follow. Women are much more team builders who see each person as an individual with worthwhile contributions to make.

Put your people ahead of yourself. A fact discussed in psychology quite often is that men are generally more self-focused than women. They tend to lead in a narcissistic and selfish manner. You can only create a high-performing and happy team when the leader releases his own ego to foster the ideas and creativity of others. Women are generally the parents who sacrifice to make certain their children outdo themselves in the long run, and that attitude most often translates into the workplace. They work harder for their team success than personal success.

Awards aren’t everything. Science has taught us that men and women assess value differently. Men tend to look at awards, certificates, diplomas, accomplishments, and titles to validate their self-worth. Women are much more likely to look at the state of their relationships in the family and at work. Do their team members value and appreciate them?

Know your limitations. It’s far better to have self-awareness than self-belief. Don’t lean in when you have nothing to lean in about. Men tend to see a characteristic or personality trait that another leader has and then try to “lean in” to that boldness, aggressive behavior, or whatever they have seen. Leaning in doesn’t make you good at anything. Such “leaning in” typically comes across as self-promotion, domination, taking credit for the ideas and work of other people. A great option for men and women both is to stop falling for people who project competence without capability. Track records, proven competency, is far better than confidence.

Motivate through transformation. Men tend to lean on carrots and sticks. Nurture a change in BELIEF more than a change in BEHAVIOR. That’s how to capture hearts and souls.

Your image matters. For most of history, women were valued almost exclusively on their looks. I believe we’ve made much progress in that area, though we still have miles to go in some troubling arenas. But women put real effort into their appearance on most days, and most of us men would do well to pay more attention to our own. Successful leaders generally look the part. Whether or not it’s fair, presentation matters. Present yourself in a way that says you respect yourself and the people you are seeing. They will be more likely to return the respect you need.

Don’t command; be humbly empathetic. We have heard repeatedly (from men) that women are too kind and caring to be leaders. In truth, the idea that anyone can effectively lead over time without being genuinely kind and caring is at odds with reality. Humans will always crave the validation, empathy, encouragement, and inspiration that only kind and caring leaders can provide. One of the reasons we have so many “flash in the pan” leaders is that people initially gravitate toward charismatic, overconfident, and narcissistic leaders, but it doesn’t last and generally leads to drama, trauma, and grave disappointment. “While we gravitate to leaders who are self-focused and self-centered, the likelihood that such a person can turn a group a people into a high performing team is low.” –Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic

Leaders must balance life. A leader who is skilled and capable pursues an objective until the goal is accomplished, true. But they also appreciate when it’s time to leave the office, relax, refresh, and build the family.

Don’t be afraid to ask for help. It’s a joke in every generation that men won’t ask for directions. Men are far more likely than women to keep working at something when they clearly need help. I have discovered that sometimes we will ask for directions, but we don’t want to hear those directions from anyone who knows us too well. We tend to choose who we network with so that we can look the best and tailor our responses. The “leader” label often handicaps us from asking for help from the people who know us best. Women network constantly and are very prone to take hard direction and evaluation from the women around them, as well as from other knowledgeable people outside their circle.

Men are more likely to take unwise risks. Men are genetically predisposed to more risk-taking than women, and risks can be very good. But men need to learn from women to carefully calculate the risks and get the opinions of wise counselors before taking the leap.

Leadership with insight is absolutely essential for long-term success. If men and women don’t learn from each other, we are missing out on all kinds of insights.

(Acknowledgements to Yasmina Yousfi, Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic, and Cindy Gallop,whose articles and/or podcasts provided information.)

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