Two weeks ago, I had a meeting with a company that seems to get it. Not by the rock wall, or the Segways, or the putting green it offers its employees. Not by the performance stages or private rooms for nursing moms. Not by the open work spaces and quiet intimate places. It’s by their culture, outwardly visible to a guest, and inwardly confirmed by the questions they asked me and input they sought.
I’m saying all this because you know I believe leadership is a 100% inside job. I have also just read a number of great articles on women in leadership, one finding that out of 10 top competencies desired for modern leaders, 8 are viewed as “feminine competencies.” (see sidebar).
What are feminine competencies of leadership, you ask? The article names expressiveness (those emotions!), planning for the future, intuition, and flexibility among others. Leading with feminine qualities includes honing empathy as a catalyst for innovation and creativity, and using vulnerability as a conduit for strength and learning.
No way can I believe what I am reading. For years, I have believed that women (or preferably, “feminine energies”) have something uniquely profound to offer business, law, dispute resolution, even if I couldn’t begin to articulate it.
In order for these competencies to thrive, research has shown that it is critical for the actual culture to reflect them. In other words, it is not enough that feminine competencies are accepted as “important.” They must be an integral part of “the way it is here.”
One may argue yeah, that’s all well and good about the culture stuff, but how does that affect my bottom line? How will I know employees will get the work done? Which brings me back to the exciting company I met with. They seem to embody these very competencies culturally. In one example, they reworked an opposing lighting situation so that the engineers and sales team had what they needed. They collaborated. They asked questions… constantly. They empathized. As for bottom line? They are growing in leaps and bounds. The best talent seeks them out as they make international footprints. And when they don’t know an answer? They ask for help, and learn from mistakes.
I believe that there is not any “one way” to lead. The feminine competencies are a much needed complement and partner to our very full male energy business and legal world. For the sake of what? For the sustainability of our businesses and futures of the leaders that run them.
Bringing it home: In what way might my own leadership grow more femininely? How might my company look then? How might yours?