Masculine + Feminine Traits Win the Day
In 2013, John Gerzema and Michael D’Antonio, authored the New York Times bestseller, “The Athena Doctrine, How Women (and the Men Who Think Like Them) Will Rule the Future” (http://bit.ly/2fFuo4w). Since the day I received my copy, I’ve used it as a study guide for leadership development in supplier diversity and entrepreneurship.
Four short years ago, Gerzema and D’Antonio’s research led them to believe that “feminine values are the operating system of twenty-first-century progress.” Their surveys showed that 81 percent of people say, “Man or woman, you need both masculine and feminine traits to thrive in today’s world.” Regardless of gender, race, religion, country of origin, ability or sexual orientation, the following, overwhelmingly feminine, values were found by the study to be the keys to leadership success.
The study characterized these traits as predominantly feminine but while researching each trait individually, I found supporting research for the validity of each as being vital traits for today’s leaders. As you read through each, think about which traits you value most in your colleagues or in the leaders you most admire. Consider the traits of successful entrepreneurs that you know or read about—which of these traits do you see in them?
An ability to form and maintain human networks. Every leadership class or speaker I’ve ever heard speaks about the importance of relationship building.
An approach to life that allows for listening, learning from others and sharing credit. Kevin Hall included “humility” in his book “Aspire, Discovering Your Purpose Through the Power of Words.” My favorite example was of Norman Brinker, founder of Brinker International. “Dozens of executives who apprenticed under him and observed his humble leadership have used his example to parallel his success,” Hall wrote. Humility is an important trait to maintain, especially when success has been achieved. We have a responsibility to listen, learn and share.
A willingness to speak openly and honestly. This value aligns best with authenticity, which according to Jody England in her book “Attraction Actions,” means that you strive for congruence between your feelings, words and actions. You speak and live in such a way that there is a match between what is happening with you internally and what is going on externally. As diverse professionals, authenticity is key to providing true examples of our businesses and ourselves to colleagues, prospects and clients.
A recognition that some solutions emerge slowly. Entrepreneurs, moving through supplier diversity channels understand that this trait is critical for success. The Athena Doctrine says, “As society increasingly realizes that nothing perfect happens overnight, leaders must possess the talent to think and speak about long-term horizons, rather than simply short-term gains.”
A sensitivity to others that promotes understanding. Empathy is the route to innovation and growth in business. Peter Diamond, certified coach and author writes in Entrepreneur Magazine, “Often, I am asked if empathy is a desirable leadership trait. My response is always emphatically ‘yes!’ Empathetic leaders motivate others by cultivating relationships.” Leaders also innovate by understanding how their customers feel and develop new ways to serve them. Using empathy as a catalyst can be the path to breakthrough innovation.
A track record and strength of character that inspires confidence. Integrity, the quality of being complete, whole and sound; the quality of living out sound moral principles, uprightness, honesty, sincerity. “All lasting relationships are built on trust. People tend to trust us when we’re trustworthy people.” Ron Willingham, “Integrity Selling for the 21st Century.” It’s a simplistic statement, however, sometimes simplicity is all that is needed. Championing diversity requires trustworthiness—we want our relationships to be built on trust in business and in our personal lives.
Being receptive to all people and concepts. “For a company to achieve its business goals, they must recognize and leverage the talent within the company. That means being able to create a culture that is empowering, supportive and, in turn, allows people to do their best work,” according to Sharon Lauby, HR consultant, The Culture Series [Part 1]—Defining Diversity and Inclusion in Today’s Business Climate. Neither entrepreneurs nor diversity and inclusion leaders or supplier inclusion managers can be successful in their role without this trait. It is an imperative.
The ability to change and adapt when circumstances require. “Agility is Today’s Most Critical Leadership Competency” (http://bit.ly/2yNF3yP) is the title of a recent article by Julie Winkle Giulioni, co-founder and principal of DesignArounds. Giullioni explains why agility learning is essential for today’s leaders and can be a learned trait. Janet Sernack, founder of ImagineNation, references an article from McKinsey Quarterly, titled The Global Forces Inspiring a New Narrative of Progress (http://bit.ly/2oQnPfi) that states, “Corporate leaders today need to rethink where and how they compete, and must cooperate in the crafting of a new societal deal that helps individuals cope with disruptive technological change.” The ability to navigate our ever-changing world, to see things through the lens of others and to learn from different perspectives is the definition of flexibility/agility and truly is a key element of leadership competency.
The courage to be human and make mistakes. This is one of the most feminine of all the traits listed in this study but is as important as the others because to be vulnerable and connected to others one must be courageous. It takes enormous courage to admit our mistakes and, in doing so, show that we are human. From the Athena Doctrine, “In our surveys, 86 percent of people believe that having some personal failures is critical to one’s overall success.” Model D and TechTown Detroit have paired up to publish personal stories about entrepreneur’s failures to help empower them to empower failure (http://bit.ly/2whoIjY). Kudos to Detroit for allowing entrepreneurs to be vulnerable and by doing so, become stronger.
A well-rounded sense of purpose. “Let us consider the way in which we spend our lives.” — Henry David Thoreau.