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Disclaimer

This is not advice. Items herein are general comments only and do not constitute or convey advice per se. The information contained in these articles is for guidance only and should not be relied upon without obtaining professional advice having regard to your direct circumstances.

 

The best man for the job is ... a woman

Every male manager I've had has been a complete loser. Blokes so devoid of managerial talent they make George Bush look competent. Maybe I've just been unlucky, I don't know. What I do know is that my female managers have rocked. Well, most of them.

In my career, I've studied hundreds of managers and have come to the conclusion that when it comes to motivating and engaging employees, women do it better.

My experience is backed up by the North Western University in Illinois, which has analysed the results of 45 leadership studies to discover that transformational (people-focused) leadership is far more effective than transactional (task-focused) leadership. Along the way it also found that women outperformed men in transformational prowess.

This is because women are predominantly right-brain thinkers, so it's naturally easier for them to relate to people and build relationships. Men, however, tend to use the left side of the brain more frequently, the side associated with facts, figures, and fear of fluffy stuff. And that's what this article is really all about - fluffy stuff.

Women are masters at fluffy stuff. The loving, the nurturing, the touching - hearts, that is. There are exceptions. The worst manager I ever had was a lady I dubbed "The Dragon".

The only thing she ever touched was my spine as she sent a chill down it every time she walked by. But an argument free from exceptions and extremes is a weak argument, so let's just focus on the general female attributes that men could learn from.

Get Personal

Indira Gandhi was India's first female prime minister and served in this post for almost 16 years. She was responsible for strengthening democratic structures in India; and the anniversary of her death is remembered each year with the Indian National Integration Day.

As one of India's most respected leaders, her advice rings true: "I suppose leadership at one time meant muscles; but today it means getting along with people."

Women realise that employee loyalty to organisations is dead. It no longer exists. What does exist and is actually increasing, is employee loyalty to their peers.

Who people work with and who they work for have a greater impact on engagement than the company that employs them. Women have learned how to capitalise on this. To women, getting personal isn't about the holes of golf they play with their colleagues, but the wholes of life they discover within their employees.

Care

By the time she died, Mother Teresa of Calcutta's Missionaries of Charity, which she founded, was operating 610 missions in 123 countries. For her selfless efforts, she was the recipient of a Nobel Peace Prize. She was beatified by Pope John Paul II shortly after her death, and given the title "Blessed Teresa of Calcutta".

She genuinely meant it when she said: "Kind words can be short and easy to speak, but their echoes are truly endless."

Women are better at caring than men. Compassion, empathy, sensitivity - it's all second nature to them. Where women reach for a box of tissues, men reach for the door. Where women go for the hug, men go for HR. Where women offer sympathy, men offer solutions.

Be real

Irrespective of what you think of Margaret Thatcher's politics, there is much to admire about her. She's the only woman to have been prime minister of Britain. Her hard-fought battles with unions, the Soviet Union, in the Falklands War, and even within her own party, led to a nickname she embraced - Iron Lady. "Being powerful is like being a lady.

If you have to tell people you are, you aren't," she quipped.

She was real and authentic. When was the last time you heard of a female public leader involved in a sex scandal? I can't think of any. Max Mosley, Eliot Spitzer, Bill Clinton. Men, men, men.

Women don't hide behind a macho facade as do many men who figuratively attend a masquerade ball every day in workplaces around Australia. With women, what you see is what you get.

They articulate their values and live by them. Employees have confidence that when they're talking to a female boss, there is no hidden agenda.

Provide Recognition

Anita Roddick opened up her first store as a way to make money while her husband was overseas. By 2004, The Body Shop had almost 2000 stores serving 77 million customers internationally.

The Body Shop is now one of the most trusted brands in the world.

One of Roddick's beliefs was to "make heroes out of the employees who personify what you want to see in the organisation".

Women know that praising an employee isn't something that's just done at the end of the annual performance review.

It is their highest priority. It's not a task that gets scratched off a to-do list like "mow the lawn". Rather, it's a natural response: women are always on the lookout to catch an employee doing something right, instead of watching and waiting for them to do something wrong.

Balance

Mary Kay Ash was so annoyed that a man she'd personally trained was promoted ahead of her, that she launched her own company with only $5000. By the time of her death, Mary Kay Cosmetics had more than 800,000 sales representatives in 37 countries and annual revenue in excess of $2 billion.

Her mantra was: "God first, family second, career third."

She didn't want any of her employees sacrificing their work-life balance just for a pay cheque.

Women understand this. They were campaigning for a work-life balance before it became a fancy HR catchphrase. They totally get the pressures of juggling a home life with a demanding work schedule. This makes them more flexible with their employees.

They seek to understand their needs and to accommodate them. They help employees achieve this balance rather than wait for them to reach breaking point. And often, they promote a work-life balance by having it themselves.

Consult

Eleanor Roosevelt was First Lady of the US for 12 years.

One of the initial activists of the United Nations, she pioneered the support of the UN within the US.

Her human rights achievements were so many that American president Harry Truman called her "First Lady of the World". A reputable poll by the Gallup Organisation recognised her officially as one of the most admired people of the 20th century.

"It is not fair to ask of others what you are not willing to do yourself," she wisely said.

Women get dirty. There's isn't any work that's beneath them. No matter how high they are in the corporate hierarchy, they've still got an ear to the ground. They're open and accessible. They ask questions and listen.

They're open to changing their opinions. They see leading a team as a 2020-Summit-esque exercise, not a Hitleresque one.

And yet despite all this, women represent less than 15% of executive leadership positions in big Australian companies. This has to change.
 
By the way, not all men make inferior managers. There are exceptions.
 
Gays, for example. Kirk Snyder undertook a study in Europe where more than 3000 employees were surveyed. The analysis found that those with a gay manager reported levels of engagement, satisfaction and morale that were 35% greater than their peers.

Males do, of course, have traits that female managers can learn from as well, such as a men's supposed superiority in making quick decisions, achieving short-term goals, and bottom-line results. But that's not what this article is about.

James Adonis, August 26, 2008
My Small Business, smh.com.au

 


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