Women Lead Differently … And That Is A Good Thing

Women Lead Differently … And That Is A Good Thing

If we are to achieve an increasing number of women in leadership positions, we need to acknowledge that men and women lead differently,  and that it is a good thing. 

The leadership style of women is collaborative, inclusive, and consultative.  They focus on nurturing a strong team environment where ethical behaviour, quality and concern for each other is important.  They use their gift of language to solicit commitment to achieving the common goals and value the results that come from a highly engaged team.

Men in a leadership role are more competitive and are focused on achievement of power and success through demonstration of results.

Over recent years, advancements in neuroscience has produced increasing evidence that men and women are, on average, innately different, leading to different natural characteristics, tendencies and talents.

In a nutshell… we think, act and lead differently. 

And these differences appear to stem from our primitive beginnings.  As early cave men and women, we had different jobs and tasks that required different skills.  With centuries of natural selection, we have ended up with differences in our hormones and the architecture of our brains.

So let’s take a look the natural leadership skills common to women. 

1.  Web-like Thinking:

Research has shown that women tend to integrate vast amounts of data faster, consider more options and see more possible solutions to a problem.  We tend to think in “webs” of information rather take a straight line or linear approach to thinking.  This is likely to be related to the fact that the female brain has more connections between the left and right hemispheres.

Men, on the other hand, are more likely to focus their attention on one thing at a time. The higher levels of testosterone drive them to focus on one specific outcome … clearly developed back in the day when they were hunting the wilder beast for dinner.

2.  Mental Flexibility

With our brain wired for “web-like thinking”, we are naturally gifted with mental flexibility … an essential ingredient needed in the dynamic, ever-shifting, fast paced modern business environment.  Women have developed a gift for generating new ideas, creativity, ingenuity and imagination.

3.  Gifted with the power of language

Women are born to talk and have developed the skill over many lifetimes to use the power of language.  We use it to influence and persuade action, comfort those in need, educate and inform, bring people together to collaborate and sway minds and hearts.

This power over language emerges early in childhood with girls learning to speak sooner than boys. Research has also shown that our aptitude with language is linked to our higher levels of oestrogen.

4.  General Social Skills

It may seem at times that women have an uncanny ability to read minds!  It is because, to some degree, they do.  Throughout the history of civilisation, the general role of women has been to create and nurture the extended family unit.  The gift of this role is a highly developed innate ability to pick up and interpret the minute social and emotional cues that we give off.

5.  Networking and Collaboration

You only need to attend a women’s networking event to see the power of women coming together to network and collaborate.  Women enjoy working together for the greater good and see the power and the results that come from working cohesively together through a network of supportive connections.

Men, on the other hand, tend to focus on achieving power through rising to the top and value their rank and status.  Men tend to be more competitive and focus on “winning”, while women tend to be more inclusive and supportive.

These traits have again been linked to hormones but also hark back to our history of different roles within our family unit.

So what is the impact of all this?    

It is clear that men and women on average have different innate leadership styles.  This is not to say that one is better than the other or that men don’t display a lot of the characteristics and talents that have been discussed, because they do.

This is more to look at and to celebrate the differences.  It has been said that men and women are like two feet… they need each other to get ahead.  Imagine if more women were to have a greater impact at the decision making table.

Imagine how the work environment – and the world for that matter – would be if women with their natural talents for web-like thinking, their ability to generate fresh ideas, their powerful language and their preference for achieving results through collaboration, were more prominent and represented more equally.  

Many work environments continue to operate under a masculine paradigm, top heavy with men in positions of power.  I believe it is time to embrace that men and women lead differently and to allow women to be true to their own skills and aptitudes.

While we continue to measure leadership success from a masculine point of view, we will miss out on the gifts, talents and the results that can be gained from embracing a well-rounded leadership team.

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Is Focusing On Your “Areas Of Improvement”

Is Focusing On Your “Areas Of Improvement”

When you think back to your last performance appraisal, did you spend more time speaking about strengths and achievements or did you and your manager focus on your weaknesses and your areas of improvement?

For most of us … our focus has been on our “areas of improvement.”

This focus starts early in life with the review of the end of term school report card.  I seem to remember my parents glossing over the A’s & B’s and a zeroing in on that ever present area of weakness… which for me… was English, and my inability to spell.

So for years my daily routine when I arrived home from school was to suffer through an afternoon of spelling practice.  I hated it and it never seemed to get any easier.  And clearly it didn’t do me any good.  To this day, I still struggle to spell!

We are all pre-programed with tasks and activities that we are great at and which are our strength and others, which take more of our energy and that, will never be something which we excel at.

Imagine what we could achieve if we were to focus our time, energy and efforts on improving and strengthening those areas that we are innately talented in?  Instead our strengths often lie dormant or neglected while we attempt to repair our flaws.

Why is it that we focus on “fixing” our weaknesses?

Yes it is important to acknowledge and strengthen those areas of our work that are holding us back.  As a leader your success is reliant on you being a great leader and manager of people, able to develop and implement a successful strategy and to be highly skilled in your area of expertise. 

Ignoring your development in any one of these areas will have you falling short as a leader.  But focusing solely on your weaknesses will hold you back!

So how do we identify our strengths? 

There are many tools and assessments that can help with this.  The one that I use and love is the Extended Disc Behavioural Profiling tool.  This simple tool provides an easy to understand guideline on behaviours and activities that come easily to you and those that take more energy to master.

Knowing and understanding your strengths is an important step in your leadership development.  By far the simplest method for understanding your strengths is understanding YOU.  You are your best judge of your own strengths.

How do we define our strengths?

Strengths can be summed up as those activities that makes you feel strong.  If we pay attention to how a task or activity makes us feel; before, during and after the event, our emotions will give us all the information we need.  Some activities we actively look forward to.  While we are doing it we get into the “zone” and time speeds and afterwards we feel invigorated and energised.

Defining our weaknesses.

A weakness on the other hand is any activity that leaves us feeling weaker.  They are activities and tasks that we tend to avoid and get no joy from.  After we complete the task we feel depleted and drained of energy.

Generally we will enjoy being engaged in those tasks that call on our strengths and enjoy less, tasks that require us to venture into areas of our weakness.

But do not be fooled.  It is possible to be highly skilled and capable in tasks that we have no apatite for.  Just because we are good at something does not automatically mean that we will love it.  And the danger here is that you will be funneled into a role that has more and more of these tasks just because you are good them.  And before you know it you will find yourself in a job that brings you no joy.

What next?

1. Identify your strengths. Notice what activities leave you energised and do what you can to build more of these into your day to day and your career.  If you are not sure, then Extended Disc Behavioural Profile will definitely be helpful for you.  

2. Clarify your weaknesses. Notice what activities drag you down and leave you feeling uninspired and bored.  Delegate as many of these as possible.  There must be others in your team who are better at these tasks than you!

3. Look for opportunities to capitalise on your strengths.  Leverage your strengths and build your skills even more in this area.  The pay off of doing this will be more job satisfaction and better results for you and your team.

LET'S CONNECT

Click below to…

Join “Leading Ladies” – a private FREE Facebook group of over 1600 other mid-career professional women to inspire and support
Join the newsletter list for weekly tips and strategies showing you how to ignite your career, lead your way and accelerate your success. 
Watch The Next Level Training to breakthrough to the next level of leadership, impact and recognition.  
Get my best tips on working smarter not harder 
Read my latest blog post.
Can’t find what you’re looking for? Contact my team.

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Now, my guess is some of you are sitting thinking, ‘Yes Jane, but that’s easier said than done. How do I show more of my true self?’

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Ladies … It Is Time To Lead Like A Woman

Ladies … It Is Time To Lead Like A Woman

Women continue to struggle to make their mark on the corporate landscape with the number of women securing leadership roles sadly lagging behind their male counterparts.

It saddens me to walk into leadership meetings to find the disproportionate representation of men and women on the team. 

A recent Ernst & Young women in leadership report concluded that “leadership groups make smarter, more informed decisions; customers are better understood; employees are less cynical and more engaged; and organisations gain competitive advantage” when there are large numbers of senior women within the organisation.

With only 16% to 20% of leadership positions occupied by women, clearly something needs to change. 

It is wonderful to see the conversation around how to support and promote women in leadership roles gaining momentum.  It is clear there is no one simple answer to this challenge.  There is robust debate about whether we should have quotas, the need for more ideal female role models, the impact senior men can have on encouraging more women and training to help women get the competitive edge. The answer will undoubtedly take a combination of all of these.   

But I believe it is also time for women to stop competing with men and start embracing their unique, brilliant feminine skills and capabilities to add to the corporate equation.  It is time we started to lead like women!

Mid last century women, in large numbers, discovered they liked working, earning money and gaining recognition for their talents.  They demanded to be treated equally to men and, in order to succeed in business, they believed they had to become like men and compete with them for the prized senior roles. 

Unfortunately, this means leaving much of our innate femininity behind.  On a primal level men and women are essentially wired differently.   

Women are hardwired to desire cooperation, collaboration and operate from a place of compassion, empathy and intuition.  While men – generally speaking – are driven to bring home a good income for their family, achieve status and recognition and are firmly focused on achieving targets and goals.

Given that historically most workplaces have been male dominated for a very long time, they essentially operate from a masculine paradigm where the focus is on winning, power and the bottom line. 

When we let go of our natural, innate strengths and reject our feminine energy, we don’t feel right…  but often we don’t know why.  

Women tell me they feel disconnected, constantly tired and struggle between making decisions from a compassionate, intuitive place verses from a logical numbers, driven perspective.

It is important to recognise that both men and women develop strong leadership skills when they tap into both their masculine and feminine energy.  It is not an either or but a combination that makes the most powerful leaders.

So ladies … it time to be bold and lead like a woman!  You will feel better, see better results from your team and create a more engaged, happier workplace. 

Here are some tips to bring your strong feminine energy to work.

1.  Recognise your strengths.  Start by recognising and acknowledging your unique strengths.   Are you bringing all of who you are and what you are capable of to your role?   

2.  Connect even more.  We love to connect and we are good at it.  So do more of it!  But lets also be a little strategic about it.  Who can you connect, network and build a relationship with, who might be able to support you and help you tap into new leadership opportunities. 

3.  Collaborate for powerful outcomes.  Collaboration is a key strength of many women.  It is time to break down the barriers and competitive nature of many workplaces and start working more effectively together to reach a common goal.  

Get your team on board.  We all bring so much more to our work if we feel involved and included.  An engaged team will bring you results that will get you noticed!

4.  Dress like a woman.  Stop blending in and looking like one of the men at work.  Identify your style, dress for success and bring a touch of femininity to your outfit.  However, keep it professional.  There is no place for your “girls” being out on show in the office. 

5.  Manage your energy.  Work life balance is a myth with many women holding down busy paid employment and then heading home to step into their second full time role as mother, wife and social organiser. 

To avoid burn out, one solution is to understand what activities give you energy and build more of these into your day.  Discover what tasks deplete you and delegate as many of these as you can.  If most of your work is made up of energy sappers … it is time to ask yourself whether you are in the right role.

Women bring unique and important attributes to leadership such as building relationships, collaboration and partnerships – all of which trump traditional power and competition of the masculine workplace.

Workplaces everywhere are crying out for a change in the way we do things and I believe, in many instances, the increased participation of women in leadership positions, leading as women from their feminine power, is the answer.

LET'S CONNECT

Click below to…

Join “Leading Ladies” – a private FREE Facebook group of over 1600 other mid-career professional women to inspire and support
Join the newsletter list for weekly tips and strategies showing you how to ignite your career, lead your way and accelerate your success. 
Watch The Next Level Training to breakthrough to the next level of leadership, impact and recognition.  
Get my best tips on working smarter not harder 
Read my latest blog post.
Can’t find what you’re looking for? Contact my team.

Similar Blog Posts

Perfectionist workplace at office or home. Flat lay desktop with keyboard and office supplies

Why Perfectionism is a Problem (and…

All the mid career women leaders I meet want to do a great job.

The trouble is, many of them think that a great job = a perfect job.

And while intentionally created, high quality work is a must, perfect work can do more harm than good.

Here’s how…

Jane Benston

beautiful business lady drinking coffee and uses different gadgets

Why You Need to Create Space…

Leaders are paid to think, not just do.

In fact, thinking is what I like to call Queen Bee work, whereas when you are stuck deep in the doing… that’s Busy Bee work.

Let me clarify further …

Jane Benston

Portrait of mature businesswoman working on desktop

5 Ways You Can Start Leading…

The number 1 thing you need to do to be a great leader is to show your true self.

Now, my guess is some of you are sitting thinking, ‘Yes Jane, but that’s easier said than done. How do I show more of my true self?’

Jane Benston