Talk like a man; females find their role


When it comes to leadership, women aspiring to managerial positions are often encouraged to adopt forward, authoritative and self-assured leadership styles in order to earn respect in the workplace.

In other words, women wanting to move up on the corporate latter are given the message to act more like men.

Expressions such as Òbe toughÓ and ÒdonÕt let them see your soft sideÓ are those traditionally applied to men.

But as women slowly gain more leadership positions, they are also at the receiving end of these societal messages.

ItÕs true that gaining respect in the workplace is crucial for women to succeed in management positions.

If employees disregard the views of their leader, of course conflict will ensue.

However, this domineering leadership style is not one that comes naturally to most women. Nor does the act of egomaniacal self-promotion, or the act of undervaluing coworkersÕ accomplishments.

Generally speaking, women have been raised in Western society to be consensus builders, to acknowledge the contributions of others and to avoid being confrontational or aggressive.

The male-dominated management culture that women are just beginning to enter is one where self-praise and individual accomplishments are often prized over modesty and group-consensus.

So, does this mean that women should be obligated to conform to these standards if they want to be promoted to leadership positions?

Absolutely not.

Broadly speaking, women possess natural abilities to lead. Unfortunately, many of their innate leadership qualities are undervalued by our society.

For example, women in general are better at understanding the nuances in human relationships, and tend to be more adept in reading non-verbal and emotional cues.

Authors Bernard Bass and Ronal Riggio write in their book Transformation Leadership, Òthe ability to inspirationally motivate followers is largely dependent on skill in emotional communication to effectively and accurately communicate inspiring emotional messages.Ó

The authors further assert, ÒConsistent research evidence suggests that women as a group are better emotional communicators than men.Ó

The natural ease in which many women communicate with employees by listening to their ideas, asking what they think about work related topics, and recognizing their accomplishments closely lends itself to transformational leadership.

Transformational leadership is a well-known style of leadership based on the following four principles: idealized influence, inspirational motivation, intellectual stimulation and individual consideration.

In simpler terms, a transformational leader acts as a role model, fosters team behavior and group consensus, encourages creativity and ingenuity, and gives employees individual attention and advising.

Ultimately, the end result of transformational leadership is a performance that goes beyond all expectations.

This holistic, collaborative leadership style that women tend to gravitate toward is radically different from the authoritative, top-down and competitive mode of leadership associated with male-dominated environments.

Ultimately, women should be encouraged to embrace the leadership style that comes naturally to them and is effective for their given work environment, instead of prescribing to the traditional male oriented management culture.

Female leaders should only take the positive aspects of stereotypical masculine leadership and incorporate them into their own leadership style.

Qualities such as assertiveness are necessary in positions with authority, as are the skills for dealing with confrontation and conflict.

In turn, male managers who exhibit the commanding and controlling leadership styles should be pushed to embrace an approach that is more communicative, group-oriented and sensitive to the ideas and wishes of the employees.

Women have a great deal to offer in leadership positions, despite the fact that their methods may differ from those of their male counterparts.

Rather than embracing all of the qualities of traditional male leadership, women should be encouraged to develop a leadership style that is their own and that brings out the best in their employees.