Archives For Women in Leadership

5 Mistakes Women Make when Leading Men

August 24, 2009

Feminine Leadership Part 3

You can read part 1 and part 2 before continuing.

1. Attempt to build a working relationship with men as if they are women

Men do compartmentalize their lives. It all runs together for us. Unless he’s willing to discuss personal stuff, don’t do it expecting him to be drawn in. If he mentions one of his kids upcoming birthdays, feel free to bring it up. If you start becoming too inquisitive on personal matters, you will be thought of as nosey.

2. Assume they have the same needs as women

Men feel motivated and empowered when they feel needed. Women are motivated and empowered when we feel valued. Giving men more breathing room to figure stuff out on their own will always work to your advantage. It is a leadership skill to figure out when to intervene. It will vary from person to person.

3. Mistake confrontation with directness

You have to be direct with men but not confrontational. Let’s say you have two direct reports, Andre & Jeff. You want Andre to format his work the way Jeff does.

Indirect – “Andre, I love how Jeff formats his reports.” Trust me, he won’t get it. Some women won’t get it either.

Confrontational – “Andre, why don’t you format your reports like Jeff?” Not only is this confrontational, it’s also emasculating. You are also pitting one man against the other.

Direct – “Andre, would you format your reports in this manner (describe it here)?” I wouldn’t bring Jeff into the discussion.

4. Take on a maternal role

This is a pet peeve of mine, your team members aren’t your children. Resist every temptation to mother your team. There are nurturing aspects women should bring to the job but never let it cross the line to babying your team especially in front of other higher powers.

5. Act like a male counterpart

This never works. I’ve sat in meetings where the head man cussed folks out, hit his fist on the table and was considered more the man for it. Women can’t play that card. Don’t think of it as a double standard (it is, but thinking of it will make you angry), rather think of it as your feminine advantage. A truly feminine woman can get more productivity out of a man than the manliest of men.

The above are things I’ve observed and studied over the past 20 years. The best books I’ve used to help learn how to lead men are dating books.  Wafting  through the ‘how to catch one’ aspects is necessary, but those books are filled with revelations of the male ego. “Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus”, by Dr. John Gray is probably the most famous of relationship books. It’s a good starting point.

Feminine Leadership Part 2

August 11, 2009

What is Femininity?

Thanks to the media, the word “femininity” conjures up the image of a woman who faints on cue, lace gloves, bashful looks, high heels and well controlled laughs. True femininity is inner strength. Michelle McKinney-Hammond has the best definition of femininity:


Feminine Leadership Part 1

August 10, 2009

Why Feminine Leadership?

10 years ago I developed a workshop entitled “The 7 Irrefutable Laws of Feminine Leadership” (yes, the title was influenced from John Maxwell’s book “21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership”).  I came up with this workshop after reading this book because there were certain things he never discussed that I encountered simply because I was a woman. It’s still one of my favorite books and I highly recommend you read it.

Every year I get requests to do this workshop. It’s not one of my favorites, only because it’s the one workshop that I allow myself to be completely transparent . It’s a workshop that is born out of EVERY mistake I’ve made in leadership. Honestly, it’s embarrassing.iStock_000007964448XSmall Also, it is the one workshop I do in which at some point a participant (usually a woman in her early 20s) will stand up and boldly declare I’m taking women back to the 1950’s. The tirade usually ends with her telling me “You sold out” or “You’ve lost yourself.” During the tirade I always pan the room to look at facial expressions: the mature women always have the look “she’ll learn” whereas the younger women are agreeing with the tirade.  I can never get angry because when I was in my early 20s I felt the same: I can do anything a man can do (and most likely do it better) and it’s not fair there’s a double standard.

Ability is never the issue.  We can argue over the double standard for years to come.  I finally experienced peace at work when I started to look at the “double standard” as a relationship dynamic. I’m not talking about doing the same job as a man and getting paid less. I’m talking about navigating through the storms male egos on the org chart and not getting caught up in the under currents of Napoleonic Complexes.

I see feminine leadership as a map through relationship terrain.  Is it fair that a man can lose his temper at a meeting and he’s considered manly, but when a woman does it she get’s called ‘emotional’ or even worse the ‘B’-word?  Or is it fair that  two women argue at a meeting,  it’s considered a cat-fight and petty? Absolutely not, but it is the reality we deal with daily. But why argue over the landscape when we can easily navigate through it.

Understanding the dynamics of relationships especially those with the opposite sex, has led to a rewarding experience of self-discovery and leadership development. As I rework my workshop, I plan to write posts on this topic. I hope you are encouraged to join the journey! Tomorrow: Pt. 2 What is Femininity?