The difference between male and female leadership styles is a topic that has been studied extensively over the last several years. Yet it hasn’t become a topic of conversation around the kitchen or boardroom table enough, from what I hear about women’s experiences at work. According to Forbes Coaches Council, women are still lagging behind when it comes to leadership roles in business. Women “are faced with a range of challenges that many of their male CEO counterparts don’t have an understanding of … preventing many women from achieving their goal of becoming a leader at their company.” In 2018, a little over five percent of CEO roles at Fortune 1000 companies were held by women, and with only 11.5 percent of “stepping-stone” executive jobs held by women, the CEO pool is “hardly a plentiful pool from which to boost the number of women at the top.”5
This is the status of the “private club” of men’s leadership.
And how is male leadership succeeding in creating a civilized world that works for everyone? I submit, not very well – perhaps for a few, but not many. We have lived a very long time with the driven, aggressive, unapproachable, overbearing, greedy, rigid, arrogant, entitled leaders in our world who work in a tightly wound power circle (the Good Old Boys Network).
Leadership power that has leaned too far towards the masculine end of the spectrum and not far enough towards the feminine.
A balance is needed that represents the strengths and positive characteristics of both. If we truly want to make a change in this world before it is destroyed completely, then we must embrace a significant change in how we lead. It will take nothing less than a transformational shift in perspective on what effective leadership truly is.
The Feminine Side of Leadership: Influence
It is the feminine side of leadership – influence versus command – that needs to be recognized and brought out of hiding. If we are going to change the number of women in top leadership roles, then we need to change the model. If we are going to mentor our young women emerging as leaders of the future, we need to update an outdated, male-dominated model. If women (and men) are going to lead the way to create meaningful change in this world, then we need to explore a more effective way to accomplish it.
I propose, and teach, another way – Comfluence™. The term “comfluence” is a combination of “command” which is how I characterize the masculine style of leadership, and “influence” which is how I characterize the feminine style. Comfluential Leadership takes the good qualities of masculine leadership such as analytic thinking, competitiveness, decisive and resilient action, and weaves them into the feminine side such as the ability to connect, build deep relationships both personal and professional, exhibit patience, use reason instead of ideology to break deadlocks, collaborate and share credit, and (dare I say it?) show compassion.
You might think this sounds divisive, but in fact, it’s a marriage of traits, strengths, and styles that each of us has – we all have masculine and feminine qualities within us to a varying degree. What we’ve seen in history, however, is a silencing and repression of common feminine characteristics by a male-dominated society (no question that women have played that part as well – it’s become what we all know and follow). By recognizing, blending, and leveraging ALL of our qualities we each become much more powerful leaders in our lives, communities, and countries.
Research on leadership finds that the qualities of excellent leadership are both typically feminine and masculine. It’s the masculine-model perception that persists and can be very difficult to change cultural perceptions and stereotypes.
I (and, increasingly, other leaders) am committed to accelerating a change in the stereotype of what a leader should – and is allowed to – be! To burst open those tightly-closed doors of the “private club” of men’s leadership (I optimistically believe that the doors are slightly ajar), to open the playing field to everyone, each with their own traits, styles, and strengths to bring to the table of world change and harmony.
~ Selected from my bestselling book No One Stood Up When I Entered The Room: One Woman’s Journey from Command to True Leadership.
Linda Patten is a Leadership Trainer for women entrepreneurs and change-makers. Her vision for every woman is to become the natural leader she is meant to be, through teaching an empowering mindset, masculine AND feminine leadership skills, and how to activate a vision into a full-bodied business or social change movement.
For opportunities to awaken and empower the leader within you, please visit Dare2LeadwithLinda.