BEATE CHELETTE: Men vs. Women – Who Leads Best?
Why we need to be more aware of our skills and how focusing on each other’s strengths leads to more efficient and productive teams.
As I researched the issues at the heart of The Women’s Code, I looked at the reasons and the ways men and women lead differently. My goal was to show how the principles of The Women’s Code will improve communication and leadership in our workplaces. When both men and women apply the three pillars—Awareness, Support, and Collaboration—they become better leaders and are more equipped to quickly climb the corporate ladder.
Let’s take a look at the differences in our leadership styles:
For men, what it takes to be a leader has been clearly established. There are specific and traditional traits a man must possess if he wants to be at the top. Even while business practices, workforce dynamics, and communication methods have evolved significantly, these traits have remained uncontested. What we see now is that the patriarchal leadership style can be inflexible and closed-minded within the modern company. The shifting balance between men and women in the workplace requires an update to the definition of what makes an effective leader.
Successful women have been led to believe they should emulate male leadership traits if they expect to get ahead. After all, this is the only road map we have had to reach the top. The problem is that what works for a man is not an innate fit for a woman and she can come across as trying too hard. She may be disliked by her coworkers and even be boycotted by her own team. She may unwittingly turn to bullish behavior in order to assert her power. Or, she follows another ineffective route and opts for the tend-and-befriend approach where she manages her team as a peer instead of as a leader. This style of leadership rarely gets her more than a fiercely protected middle management role where she spends time defending her job instead of supporting her team.
Even though there has been a massive influx of women in the workplace, we still lack clearly defined, effective leadership traits for women. Sticking with our old ways can cause hostility and miscommunication between men and women, creating an unproductive and toxic work environment. The costs to corporations are staggering. The average Fortune 500 Company spends $8M annually due to workplace bullying, turnover, and stress-related illness. What an enormous waste!
Therefore, successful companies and inspiring leaders need to know how to foster an environment where women and men follow their own unique leadership styles, are mutually supportive, and work together to improve productivity and the bottom line.
Here are three easy tips that women can apply to sharpen leadership skills and improve collaboration:
- Use the Main Focus principle at work: What is your priority for today? Instead of tackling ten objectives, stay focused on one task at time. Don’t forget to communicate your priority to your team so they can do the same.
- At meetings, set a supportive tone by complimenting others on tasks they did well or for skills that you find desirable. By starting your meetings with positive comments, the participants are more engaged and more productive.
- People with introvert and extrovert personalities tend to absorb and share information differently. Make a point to get to know your individual team members and ensure each one has an opportunity share thoughts and be heard.
A good team is like a car engine—each part plays an important role and the team will under-perform if one part is missing. When we understand the role we fulfill and are clear about our personal strengths and weaknesses, we allow others to perform at their peak as well. Together, we can build on our strengths and learn how to improve those skills that are not our innate preferences or strongest points. This synergy allows us to move faster together.