Influential Leadership Can Trump Gender Bias

My sister could throw a mean dirt clod and make any boy cry for mercy.

I knew how to organize a team and get everyone working together like a well-oiled machine solely for the benefit of the machine.

Together we defended our street’s vacant lots with bravery and integrity from the bad boys and bullies back in the day.

Counter-intuitively and according to cultural folklore (and yes, research somewhere), boys wage war to get what they want and girls work together to gain collaborative advantage, as if the sole gender hard-wiring was the only reason these behaviors manifest.

And to date, unfortunately, the boys still win when it comes to the workplace. Even with more women employed and more men unemployed than ever before.

But that’s not exactly what the point of this blog is about.

The other day I read business blogger Steve Blank’s post titled Boys Rules, Girls Lose – Women at Work where he relates his observations of raising two daughters and his recommendations for them and other women when it comes to work and dealing with men.

And of course that got my attention since I now have two daughters.

One theme that come coming out over and over again was the benefits of collaborative advantage (we just released a white paper on that subject) and how women are much better at it than men: Collaboration can make you a stronger competitor.

This means that people agree to work together to achieve what’s best for the organization rather than what’s best for themselves, their group or functional area—even when it means giving up time, budget and other resources.

However, it is possible for both genders to collaborate and influence with integrity. Like emotional intelligence, these behaviors can be developed over time with the right training and counsel.

Unfortunately, some very gifted leaders (mostly men) still operate under the assumption that they have to lead by wielding supreme authority.

They don’t do this because they’re poor leaders. They do it because they believe it’s what they’re expected and paid to do.

It’s an understandable point of view — but what about not wielding supreme authority in order to get the best possible results from your organization?

Business leaders are expected to maximize their competitive position in the marketplace, and the better method to accomplish this is to influence with integrity, and again with high emotional intelligence.

Learning to influence with integrity means leaders learn to present ideas in a way that:

  • gains the commitment of others,
  • inspires better ideas from others,
  • and when necessary, diffuses emotionally toxic situations.

Influencing with integrity makes more and more sense for today’s leaders, who often need to get results not only by strengthening internal relationships but also by improving relationships with external partners, suppliers and, in some cases, even competitors — for men and women alike.

Influential leadership can trump gender bias, particularly when the goal is to create collaborative advantage.

Now, who needs their turf defended from dirt clod gangs?


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