Looking back . . .
I’m not much for generalizations, especially when talking about groups. By generalizing [about behaviors] we are often inherently unfair to individuals within the group. With that being said, this post is a generalization based on what I have learned from female leaders during my career. My hope is that you will appreciate the information being offered for your consideration, without being overly concerned for those (individuals or groups) not adequately represented here. Trust me; I understand that there are great leaders of both sexes to be found in all groups.
Like most of you I have worked for both strong and weak leaders during my career. Looking back, I believe that I have learned more from the strong female leaders than from the men. Some of those women (while not identified) may see themselves weaved within the fabric of this post.
Here are some things I have learned
Women are more authentic. They tend to be who they are versus whom they wish to be. They are much more likely to be servant leaders, (therefore being more effective), and much more likely to retain humility in the face of success. A strong woman is rarely arrogant. An arrogant woman is rarely successful; since their arrogance is usually a façade of strength intended to hide true weakness or insecurity.
Women tend to be more organized. They delegate better, and they most certainly follow up better. In business, the devil is in the details and women tend to always have a better grasp of the details. This is particularly true when talking about delegation and following up. Men are more likely to give higher level (more general) instructions with weak or no follow up. Women are likely to be more detailed in their instructions, more tenacious in their follow up, and more exacting in their expected outcomes.
Women are better listeners. When it’s important . . . Women tend to listen more and speak less. While men are busy formulating their next interjection or response, women are truly listening to what is being said. This makes them better prepared to further the conversation rather than just participating in the debate.
Women are better questioners. Somewhat an extension of the last point, but certainly worthy of its own bullet, women often ask the most challenging (needed) questions. More importantly, they are more apt to ask the right questions, office politics be damned! Because women are more likely to question things, they are less likely to fall into the “We’ve always done it that way” trap.
Women are better team builders. We all know that people are much more likely to care about the success of the team and their leader, if that leader cares about them. It has been my experience that women spend more time teaching and developing their team members. When I think of all the leaders I have worked for that didn’t really care if I existed or not . . . I don’t count a single woman among them. Could it be that women are just more nurturing by nature?
Women are less emotional when making decisions. This may be counter intuitive or ironic to some of you, but I have found it to be true. The best women leaders are much more likely to maintain their composure. They make data or results-driven decisions versus being overly influenced by spur of the moment emotion. It’s true, the emotion may hit them later, but during the heat of battle, they keep it together.
Women tend to be more productive (action oriented) leaders. Maybe it’s that they are more trusting of their instincts, (their gut). Maybe they are more comfortable adjusting on the fly without the fear of having to admit a mistake. I think it’s because they build better working relationships with those they lead and report to. They get actionable information more quickly because they don’t pretend to have (or demand to be the source of) all the answers.
I learned, both from the good and the bad
I don’t pretend to have all the answers either. This post is all about my personal experiences, so I expect opinions to vary greatly. I am thankful for everything I have learned from all the great leaders I have been exposed to, (male and female), over the years. I am even thankful for what I have learned from the very poor leaders in my life. They likely saved me from making many of the mistakes I observed them making. Ultimately, like most of you, my best education has always come from my own mistakes. God knows there has been plenty of learning opportunities so far!
In closing – Since this post is about strong women, I want to take this opportunity to reminisce about a special one in my life. Mrs. Thelma Well was my high school English / Journalism teacher. She was the first women to put me in a leadership role (news editor for the school newspaper). I wasn’t the likely choice, since I was anything but the most popular kid in class. But she either believed in me, or wanted to badly enough to give me a chance. She’s gone now, but I have often looked at her decision as the pivotal point in my life. I have always been and will remain eternally grateful for her belief in me at a time when I didn’t yet believe in myself.
Thank you Ladies!