Brave Women and Coward Men?

Leadership style dilemmas for women and men

An interesting 2010 research from Hudson found that non c-level women in business pay more attention to people related issues and quality performance, while men seem to attach more importance to an effective control of emotions and an extroverted attitude towards the environment. At the same time, male leaders show an even more extreme male personality. They describe themselves a leaders with a great deal of impact and strong personal opinions who are focused on achieving long term objectives. They consider themselves less caring and people oriented. However, women at the top appear to have a male leadership profile with feminin nuances. C-level women tend to score lower on altruism and people centeredness compared to average women.

Why should you care?

Because research shows a very strong connection between employee engagement and profit. Recently, a Towers Watson study showed that companies with low engagement scores had an average operating margin just under 10 percent. Those with high traditional engagement had a slightly higher margin of 14 percent. Companies with the highest “sustainable engagement” scores had an average one-year operating margin of 27 percent.  At the same time among sustainably engaged employees, 74 percent in the study believed that senior leaders had a sincere interest in their well-being. Only 44 percent of traditionally engaged employees felt the same way, while only 18 percent of disengaged employees felt their managers genuinely cared about their well-being. This proves that no single behaviour influences more the quality of people’s energy than feeling valued and appreciated by their supervisor.  “The manager is at the heart of what we might think of as a personal employee ecosystem,” the Towers Watson study concludes, “shaping individual experience … day in and day out.”

The cultural context in CEE multiplies the relevance of keeping employees engaged and motivated

The CEE region is a very fragmented and culturally diverse territory. From a religious point of view it is the boarder of Eastern and Western Christianism. From a historical point of this is how far the Turkish Empire could get in its effort to occupy Europe and its countries have been in war with each other more times then it rains in London. And it is also an area where politicians successfully played and still play on nationalistic strings in a populist effort to please the masses who are unhappy with the result of the shift from Communism to Capitalism or to blame someone else for the fact that their respective countries and economies are not doing well enough.

This is something that should be taken into account when managing multinational teams in the territory. If we look at the result of the Hofstede cultural survey we see great differences in terms of the business culture as well. Hofstede found that culture can be effectively mapped around four key factors: power distance; masculinity/femininity; individualism/collectivism; and uncertainty avoidance. There appear to be many differences among the CEE countries as per the results of his multi-country study he conducted. Poland and Russia and Romania more hierarchical societies; Hungary shows very strong individualism scores whilst Russia and Romania are more of a collectivist society. There appears to be one common point for all countries though which is a strong desire to avoid uncertainty in life. Bad news for the age we are in. If you think about it though, what does one need who wants to avoid uncertainty but lives in a very uncertain world? I believe only care and attention can counterbalance the negative stress such a person experiences. And the bad news is that if you as a manager are not conscious about the female component of your personality then you are not likely to give this to your employees.

Coaching and the female and male component of our personality

The oldest symbol of how the female and male principle should embrace each other in the universe and on an individual level is the famous Jin-Jang from China. Western societies, however, did not recognise the relevance of this until the twentieth century. Carl G. Jung, the famous disciple of Freud has brought our attention back to the fact that we all have a female and male component of our personalities: the Anima and the Animus. He and other psychologists have also showed the therapy is only successful if the therapist can activate the female side of his personality effectively by giving enough unconditional positive regard to the patient. Not surprisingly the concept of unconditional regard became the cornerstone of business coaching as well. Effective managerial coaching practices at the workplace also require skills and attitudes which are strongly connected to the female component. Such skills are active listening and empathy, and a genuine state of being candid and open to the other person. No wonder we often see people who learned coaching and practise these skills but yet remain totally unauthentic and fake as if playing a role which really doesn’t fit them.

Effective Leadership and male and female roles

In summary, we are at an age when uncertainty is high and the economy is not doing well. We know that leaders are mostly men and they tend to be extreme versions of the male component. Female leaders on the other hand tend to adopt a male profile of management to fit in and appear stronger. What is the conclusion we can draw based on that?

I believe that there is a strong connection between keeping people motivated, by being more people centred and paying attention to physical and mental well-being of employees. A company can be very profitable and at the same time a community where people are happy to belong. This cannot be done without consciously or subconsciously activating the female component of our personalities. I believe that every leader should be aware of the male and female component of his/her personality. They should all understand how does this connect to their belief systems and what skills they can  activate and de-activate.

In our experience a great to way of show the employees that the organization and management cares about them is to introduce coaching based management style and effective habits and forums around it. A good place to start is sales where you can very easily create clear standards, and a clear system of paired visits subsequently followed by motivating coaching feedback. The common mistake companies make is that they introduce coaching to sales and customer care and stop. If you want the company to transform you need to create Chief Energy Officers and management team which embrace the coaching culture whilst being also goal oriented and determined.

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