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Posted: March 21, 2012

Women are wired to be great leaders

Their success means success for the company

Sandrine Heine

We associate female leadership with certain qualities and behaviors: communication, broad thinking, collaboration, partnership, listening, understanding, empowerment, intuition, inclusion, flexibility and openness.  All are qualities that give us and our employers an edge in the workplace, especially relevant in today’s world where everyone and everything is connected.  Businesses want more customers, more loyalty and more collaboration, all generated from communication and relationships.

David Gergen writes in Enlightened Power::  “Women leaders seems perfectly tailored for [the] new style [of leadership]. Think about the words we use to describe the old-style leadership: aggressive, assertive, autocratic, muscular, closed. When we describe the new leadership, we employ terms like consensual, relational, web-based, caring, inclusive, open, transparent-all qualities that we associate with the feminine style of leadership." The new leader persuades, empowers, collaborates, and partners."

Authoritative studies by Catalyst and Harvard Research show the direct correlation between increased gender diversity at the highest levels and improved financial performance.

Current C-level positions are held mostly by men in the baby-boomer cohort.  Many will retire within 10 years. Nearly 50 percent of women currently are in managerial positions, and from the new recruits, more than 60 percent are women. The talent pool is changing. Some companies find it difficult to attract and retain women for leadership positions. They need to understand that women have different motivations than men.  While both are motivated by financial factors, women mostly care about the impact of their work on the community.  Flexible time and day care types of programs are nice perks, but will not make a woman stay if she does not feel valued, recognized, and understood for her qualities and values.

What Women Face.

For decades in business, women have been told and trained to be like a man. Today, women need to re-connect and embrace their best qualities to be ready for the new leadership style.  They need to understand their strengths and how to exhibit them in a way that is understood and valued. They need to stand up with grace and power for what they believe is right.  Emotions may be part of our being, but being emotional is not an effectively approach to persuading men of your point of view. Remove the word “feeling” from your vocabulary (it shuts men down automatically) and instead, use the words “sense” and “notice.”

An example: 
A VP of sales is gathering everyone to talk about reducing cost to increase profit. Directors Jack and Beth attend.  After the meeting, Jack started to crunch the numbers. Beth reflects on the meeting and asks Jack if he noticed that something was off with Henry, the sale’s manager.  Jack had not noticed and did not really care to know.  He was focused on the numbers. Beth dropped the issue, looked at the numbers and agreed with Jack.

A better ending would be:
Instead of dropping the issue, Beth explained further what she noticed: ”Henry seemed upset. He is responsible for the sale’s team, and if we don’t address his state of mind, then the whole sale’s team may be in trouble, and we may have a bigger problem than cost cutting”.

While Jack focused only on the numbers, Beth understands that numbers are produced by people.

Organizations that embrace the different qualities and motivations of men and women can set the stage for outstanding results. Including more women at high levels will take organizations to higher level of success.

Sandrine Heine is founder of The Loud Flower, a practice offering specialized services to women and companies to fully understand the true potential of the female vision and how, by embracing it, helps organizations to be prepared for the next business evolution. You can learn more at

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Readers Respond

Bel article.Une approche très intéressante sur la manière dêtre un leader et qui ouvre une autre vision du management autant dans une entreprise que dans la vie de tout les jours. Bravo Sandrine. By Charmont Raphaêl on 2012 04 19
While gender is important, understanding and appreciating different brain styles and behaviors in the workplace is even more effective. Consider the example given in the article from an Emergenetics view: jack is viewing the world through an Analytical (blue), left-brain approach while Beth is coming at the same situation from a Social (red) perspective. Both approaches -- when acknowledged and respected -- are important and should be valued in any work environment, regardless of gender. Furthermore, Jack is exhibiting third-third Expressive and Assertive behavior by making sure Beth knows his opinion. Her behavior, on the other hand, is more in line with a first-third expressive where she'll think things over before sharing her opinion. Authenticity is less about gender, and more about embracing one's strengths! By Christine Testolini on 2012 04 04
Yes, we would hope many women would behave that way, however, in my career, I have dealt with a few women managers who behaved like men; they even exaggerated the masculine qualities of leading: they became super masculine. But as you remark, the new generation of women is, I think, more sensitive, and uses more feminine qualities for leading. Good article, Sandrine. By Dominique de Mar on 2012 03 22
Great article, Sandrine! Thank you for being an inspiration to women leaders! Tianna From your BFA family By Tianna Bailey on 2012 03 22
Wonderful points! I agree that women need to be authentic in business. What we bring to the table is an important and essential part of the success equation. By Robin Fisher-Roffer on 2012 03 21
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