Let’s Talk Opinion in conversation with SFoxWriting
“In summary, while I’m not saying that men are bad leader’s in fact there have been many successful and popular male leaders throughout history I believe that they lack certain skills in order to gain the upper hand in every situation. I because of this am of the opinion that women have a broader range of characteristics in order to get the best out of any situation and are the best leaders.” Women make better leaders than men
I object, your honour! I object.
Alright. You caught me. I’ll be playing the devil’s advocate here. Don’t take me wrong. I’m all for women taking on leadership roles. The more the better. So… Instead of arguing in favour or against our Mr Fox’s premise, I will unpick aspects of his argument that I thought might require additional consideration, such as forgetting to include Hermione Granger in his “Inspirational women” list for example. 😉
“In terms of work for example it is crucial that the Boss is a powerful figure,” says Steven. This I presume is meant to indicate that a boss is a figure of authority. Whether it is necessary for a leader to be a powerful figure I am less certain.
If we take power to denote a physical characteristic, it is sufficient to look back at the likes of Napoleon, whence we have the “short man syndrome.” Admittedly, he did lose more battles than he won, but the British had more to do with that than his height. Roosevelt got America through a war while in a wheelchair. Churchill had to fight mental illness as well as the Nazis, not to mention a serious addiction to Cubans and champagne. All in all, I’d say that neither a strong body nor a strong mind are essential for a leader to succeed. Will power, on the other hand, is crucial.
Good news for all aspiring women leaders out there I should think.
A last note on power. It is not the man or woman who occupies the metaphorical throne that needs to be powerful. The seat of power itself will endow them with all that they require in that respect. It is what they do with it that matters. Many are the bosses who have no clue what it takes to become a leader.
“It is however also important that they also have lots of other little skills which help to make the Boss be as understood and motivating as possible,” continues Steven, “one of the biggest tools women use better than men is communication.”
I have to say that I’ve never fully understood why good communication skills are considered to belong to one gender and not the other. I rather think that this is a stereotype that has little foundation in reality. There are women who are good communicators, but there are also men who are equally skilled in this respect. In my experience gender is seldom an indicator of whether the person before you will possess this particular gift or not.
The same goes for being good listeners. I’ve come across many a woman who is devoid of this ability and many a man similarly afflicted.
Steven made an interesting point in this respect: “if something needs to be done but it isn’t urgent and some thought needs to be taken beforehand the women will sit down with all parties involved and genuinely listen to everyone’s points before making up plans to deal with the subject at hand. However the man will jump into the problem and try and fix it sometimes with no exterior input.”
I beg to differ. First of all the example is too vague: “something needs to be done.” By the end of the paragraph we discover that it is not just something that needs to be done, but that something is a problem to be resolved rather than a task to be performed.
If a problem requires collaborative decision-making then a good leader, whether man or woman, will take appropriate measures to ensure that all parties have been given the chance to contribute to the process. Leaders seldom “jump into the problem and try and fix it”, whether men or women. Instead they delegate. Leaders are the ones with the vision. The minutia of problem solving usually falls to middle management and in the case of smaller issues to the workforce at large.
Nor do I think that men jump in to fix problems “due to men wanting more power and having the mentality to try and fix things.” While men may have been socially conditioned to get on with “fixing things”, I doubt that this is in any way related to wanting more power. Those who have power get others to fix things for them, surely. I don’t like the expression “why have a dog and bark yourself”, but I suspect it is the case here.
Next Steven claims that “women are discussion orientated and men are action orientated.” I’d say that this particular stereotype does a disservice to men and women in equal measure. It gives the false impression that women stand around chatting all day, while men jump left right and centre fixing things. Is that really the case?
Leaders thrive on communication. They have to communicate in order to delegate and getting their subalterns to put their ideas into practice is what leaders do. Communication is a form of action when it comes to jobs at the top, as is decision-making. If there are other types of “action” that ought to be included in this context, I have to admit, I’m unaware of them.
When it comes to “employees want their employer to listen to them and even take their ideas on board” and “customers want themselves to be heard”, I get the distinct impression that Steven and I were thinking of different types of leadership styles as well as different sizes of business. In the context of a small business, a leader or boss, to use Steven’s language of choice, may indeed be required to take on the mantle of HR and PR. Medium, large business and multinationals have entire teams dedicated to these tasks. The man or woman at the top has bigger fish to fry. Listening to their advisors, boards of directors, shareholders and those reporting directly to them is a must. Listening to every employee and n-number of customers, on the other hand, would be untenable, even if it may ultimately result in loyalty.
I also doubt that women are alone in trying to “build relationships in and out of work.” Similarly, I am certain that a woman leader would be just as quick in distinguishing between potential partners and rivals when it comes to “collaborations with say other companies”. They would assess the pitfalls and benefits of such collaboration and would take into account “if they are competitors or not.”
Nor do I agree that “This will in the long run most likely make only a small difference to the way the company is run or the success it has”. Why only a small difference? Having successful relationships with partners is invaluable. It’s the difference between making the number or going under. Such collaborative efforts, when part of the company’s overall strategy, are about growth and profit. Otherwise, why bother? No self-respecting leader would put in all that effort on the off-chance that they’ll need allies when “everything goes wrong.” Leaders work towards success. They are not in the habit of planning for the eventuality of failure.
“While men view competition as exactly that “someone else to take part of my pie” and this just leads to conflict, while the women invite each other round to share equal amounts of pie and get better ties with other businesses because of it.” Well I never. Women invite each other round to share equal amounts of pie? Not if they are business women they don’t, and certainly not if the pie is an euphemism for their share of power.
Sorry, but this pie simile ought to have stayed in the bakery. Women view competition exactly as men do. They are usually berated for it, but make no mistake about it: women are just as competitive as men are. They won’t go sharing any pie.
I’m also uncertain about where the point ‘the amount of time it takes a woman to get ready’ fits into a discussion about leadership. It can take a woman five minutes to get ready if she has a deadline. If not, she may indulge. Still. This has no relevance when it comes to her business acumen or her ability to lead. Feel free to extrapolate.
“Women also prefer leading from the middle of the pack rather than the top like men,” says Steven.
Not so. For a very long time, due to socio-political and economic reasons into which I will not go here, women have been confined to the middle of the pack. It wasn’t a choice. It was the state of affairs.
Similarly, successful men and women are all aware that “in order to achieve greatness everyone must chip in rather than just barking out orders”. Those who’ve missed that particular memo, don’t make it to the top.
That’s that. I’ve done my best to do my worst. The devil is done. Medium-rare I should think. Despite the combative tone of the above, I assure you that Steven and I are in agreement on many a point, but I enjoy a good parry and, since he agreed to be a good sport about it, I wanted to measure up to the challenge.
I admire the tenacity with which Steven approached Don Charisma’s challenge on this subject. Kudos to a writer who delved fearlessly into new territory. To find out who made it to his list of inspirational women as well as for additional points on why women make better leaders than men, please read Women make better leaders than men.
My last thoughts for you come courtesy of Joan Kofodimos’s review of Hanna Rosin’s book The End of Men.
The End of Men… as Leaders? is nigh it would appear, since men’s old ways no longer fit into a fast-changing world where adapting to new circumstances holds the key to success. I rather think that Steven attempted to make many of these points in his article, albeit in a different format.
Here is a breakdown of the men’s Old Way versus women’s New Way argument:
The Old Way …
- accepting the legitimacy of external authority
- deferring to others with authority over you
- using your authority to get compliance from those below you
- wanting to please others that you view as powerful – being “respectful”
- avoiding conflict and communicating indirectly or “off-line” about difficult issues
- not upsetting the apple cart because of the fear of damaging relationships
- creating a rational “persona,” not voicing your personal viewpoint for fear of being seen as selfish
The New Way …
- recognizing that the most important influence is lateral
- seeking commitment rather than compliance – even when you have authority
- treating everybody the same – “respect” does not vary with position
- surfacing conflict openly with all relevant stakeholders
- being able to challenge in a way that deepens, not threatens, the relationship
- building win-win solutions that address the interests of all stakeholders
So… Are you persuaded? Do women make better leaders than men?
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