Masculinity and leadership seem to always coincide with one another when the majority of organizations talk about the ideal leader. Companies and governments show that the organizations value the masculine traits of assertiveness and independence over feminine traits, like being cooperative and caring, but the times are quickly changing.
In order to keep progressing during the twenty-first century, feminine traits in leadership are a must.
At first glance, feminine leadership looks like a wonderful world where women are in power. That statement is correct but not entirely. Feminine Leadership is a way of leading that is not like the top down, hierarchical leadership model that the vast majority of businesses and governments use today. It’s not a matter of females versus their male counterparts, or the so-called battle of the sexes.
This emerging leadership style is more a matter of implementing traits associated with femininity in organizations; although, if women were more represented within organizations, this leadership style would be second nature for organizations rather than a shock to the patriarchy. Feminine leadership is a way of leading others that promotes happiness, productivity, and change for all parties involved.
As women, the feminine traits associated with our leadership style that we possess are things that we don’t necessarily think about having when we lead others. These traits are predispositions that guide our decision making within our organizations and these tendencies stick out due to the preexisting structure of the organizations that we play a role in. Traits like being humble, supportive, nurturing, and collaborative, are seen as being taboo in some organizational cultures where dominance and competition are king. Other feminine traits include trustworthiness, adaptability, friendly, and open-mindedness.
With those positive traits, come traits with negative connotations. One trait is vulnerability. By definition vulnerability is being susceptible to harm but that’s just it. In order to guide others in our organizations towards growth, vulnerability is essential. Vulnerability sounds like an awful thing to be for a leader, but it is, in fact, the opposite.
Being a vulnerable leader demonstrates to others courage and a desire for progress that promotes others within the organization to do the same. In many scientific fields, for example, asking questions is typically looked down upon and makes those who ask questions vulnerable to scrutiny. Isn’t asking questions a way to learn new information or show interest in a certain topic? Why is it that people are expected to have a breadth of knowledge, but they cannot ask for the knowledge to be shared? These questions are answered with feminine leadership.
Current Leadership in Organizations
A top-down, hierarchical approach to almost every aspect of life? No, thank you, but as unprogressive as masculine leadership is, the traits aren’t all bad all the time. The “command and control” attitude to leading others is typically seen as effective and efficient when men use it. According to the Athena Doctrine that was published by John Gerzema and Michael D’Antonio in 2013, people consistently associated confidence, logical, analytical, and leadership as masculine traits.
However, when women possess these masculine traits as leaders, they are deemed demanding and arrogant, leading to their subordinates shutting down and becoming unproductive. This ruling that is made by subordinates is where the tension and inequalities arise. Due to the current mind set of organizations, women and those with feminine leadership traits are being underutilized and are labeled as the two extremes, either “bitchy” or “weak”, depending on if they conform to the current standard or not.
What organizations across the globe are failing to realize is that in the twenty-first century, the focus of leaders needs to shift to sustaining the performance of the organization through the alliance of its members around the organization’s mission and values. Leaders need to be empowered to promote the collaboration of members to become more cohesive; this cohesiveness will help the organization better achieve its objectives and improve its foundation of trust within the organization.
Women in Action
Organizations with feminine styles of leadership are changing right before our eyes, and progress is coming along with them. There are many remarkable women that are currently leading others with integrity and creativity.
Being the first female Chancellor of Germany, Merkel has been deemed “the most powerful woman in the world”. Her priority during her career has consistently been strengthening the country’s transatlantic economic relations while still improving the well fare of those in Germany. Chancellor Merkel has stated, “We are a country based on democracy, tolerance, and openness to the world.” According to the Athena Doctrine, this statement is right on the money.
Currently serving as the President of the European Central Bank, Lagarde has held a number of positions as a politician. During her political career, Lagarde has prioritized opening new markets for France’s products, primarily focusing on seeking out innovation from the country’s technology sector. Further showing her feminine leadership traits, Lagarde said, “To me, leadership is about encouraging people. It’s about stimulating them. It’s about enabling them to achieve what they can achieve- and to do that with a purpose.”
Melinda Gates is the Co-Chair of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, making her the most powerful woman in philanthropy. Gates has continued the reshape the foundation’s strategy to solve difficult problems such as the relationship between education and poverty since its founding in 2000. Attesting to the collaboration and kindness of women and feminine leaders, Melinda Gates stated, “When we invest in women and girls, we are investing in the people who invest in everyone else.”
Ana Patricia Botín
Ana Patricia Botín is the chair of the Santander Group. In 2017, she successfully acquired Banco Popular for €1; thus, Banco Santander became Spain’s largest bank. Botín has launched programs to support university entrepreneurship that inspires innovation from the next generation of leaders. She values diversity and equality; Botín said, “Other things equal, we should give a chance to women. That’s what I try to do.” Giving women a chance is exactly what leadership like hers is doing.
A strong voice for women’s rights, Prime Minister Erna Solberg is dubbed Norway’s Angela Merkel. She steered the country clear of an oil crisis with a looming recession that would have followed it. She uses her humanistic point of view to empathize the needs of the people of Norway in the government. Regarding the education of women in the nation, Solberg stated, “When you invest in a girl’s education, she feeds herself, her children, her community, and her nation.”
So, what’s the main take away?
It should be to embrace the traits that you possess and look towards the future. Organizations that want to progress will be in desperate need for your character and way of seeing the world, and when they call upon you, it’s up to you to show them what you’re made of.