Why gendered leadership traits are a myth



After I began my profession within the company world, I absorbed, by osmosis, the way in which that I believed leadership was. I labored in a male-dominated atmosphere, in that many of the senior leadership was male, and the ladies that had risen to the highest tended to have extra stereotypical “masculine” traits.

I left the company world and later based a tech startup. Once more, I used to be again in a male-dominated trade, and I led my group in a method that I believed I ought to. I used to be authoritative, controlling, and susceptible to dropping my mood. Was the frustration justified? Sure, in some circumstances. May I’ve dealt with it higher? Completely. Performing like this left me exhausted and didn’t result in the standard of the group’s work bettering considerably. I knew that there needed to be a higher method.

By labeling traits as gender-specific, we are confirming our restricted programming that males are higher leaders, so the sometimes masculine qualities have to be higher than female qualities. This bias was summarized by researcher Virginia E. Schein, who in 1973 discovered that when folks “assume supervisor,”  they “think male.” Which means that, by advantage of their gender, ladies are perceived as much less competent than their male coworkers. In a study conducted in 2015, the researchers discovered “very clear gender-stereotyping results.” Each women and men tended to consider that girls lacked the emotional qualities considered essential for good leadership.


That’s how we get to a enterprise world the place lots of the folks in top leadership positions are low in emotional intelligence (which is seen as a extra “female” attribute). That is dangerous, as women and men can have traits stereotypically assigned to each genders; and anybody is able to leadership via their very own distinctive traits.

Why ought to ladies really feel that they have to be extra “masculine” to succeed, or males worry exhibiting “female” traits? We ought to be wanting on the integration of the completely different aspects of our persona—the yin and yang, the masculine and female.

Leadership ought to be about having sure common key ideas, which is able to take away the necessity for leaders to “act” in a sure method. We have to perceive what nice leadership means in a enterprise atmosphere, the place volatility, uncertainty, complexity, and ambiguity (“VUCA”) have develop into the norm. The brand new chief must be agile, so dominance of both “male” or “feminine” traits won’t make them as efficient as they might be.  They should develop their particular leadership fashion, primarily based on their key strengths and what’s wanted within the circumstances.

So, how do you go about discovering your steadiness? To start out, ask your self a few of these revealing questions.

Is main folks exhausting you?

Stepping again and objectively reflecting on whether or not you are making the impression you wish to be making or not is essential. When you’re discovering it exhausting making an attempt to provoke folks into motion, ask your self why that’s. If we are at all times sporting a masks, then we are able to spend a lot of our time and vitality making an attempt to take care of that masks, slightly than coming from a place of service. Performing opposite to our nature is emotionally draining, and once we really feel drained, we don’t typically make one of the best choices or get one of the best outcomes. That is an applicable time to do an vitality evaluation.


Are you downplaying your strengths to be acceptable?

No matter whether or not you’re a man or a lady, if one in all your strengths is that you just are naturally empathetic, it may be all too tempting to play it down when you assume others will see it as a weak point, otherwise you don’t see empathy related to power.

Nevertheless, you would be downplaying your best superpower. The facility that, when you used it properly, would make you a unprecedented chief. Leadership is about understanding core competencies and enjoying to your strengths, firstly, whereas bringing your weaknesses as much as a degree the place they are not detrimental.

Do you fall into one class over the opposite?

Whereas most individuals have each kinds of stereotypical traits in them, folks have a tendency to fall extra on one facet than the opposite. This has much less to do with gender than with understanding the place you sit on the spectrum.

Work on creating the core strengths that you’ve, after which ask your self, what else do you are feeling that you must develop to be one of the best chief you will be? What new expertise are essential to creating you a good higher chief, and that you just really feel drawn to develop?

How do you embrace a very powerful chief attributes?

If we study particular competencies, motion, risk-taking, and assertiveness are historically seen as extra masculine, for instance, and empathy and communication expertise are seen as extra female. Nevertheless, to be handiest, empathy must be balanced with setting expectations, together with delivering constructive suggestions and dealing with battle, slightly than avoiding both. Isn’t it possible that “assertiveness” and “compassion” can dwell throughout the individual and serve them properly within the enterprise world? And does “competence” cancel out “kindness?” I believe the previous is totally attainable, and the latter assertion doesn’t have to be accepted as a cultural norm. As a substitute ask your self one key query: “What expertise do I must develop to maximise my strengths?”

Sara Sabin is a coach to govt and entrepreneur leaders. She is a enterprise proprietor and the founding father of many startups through the years.