What happens when women stop leading like men?
My passionate heart pursued this conversation over the past two decades like a dog with a really juicy bone. How do women lead when matching a masculine leadership style, tone? We lead like men, which is not a bad thing. Men make great leaders. But, why do women assume that leading like a man is the way to success? And how does this feed into a certain hesitation in stepping up and out, anxiety about being too visible many women strive to overcome? Does a lack of confidence arise because we are faking it, striving to be different than who we are?
Tina Brown, Editor in Chief of Vanity Fair, The New Yorker and Newsweek, and currently host of my favorite new find - The TBD podcast, recently linked women’s wisdom to the future of the world in The New York Times.
“Women have accumulated rich ways of knowing that until recently were dismissed in male circles of power….Until very recently, that kind of wisdom was banished to folkways or deprecated as secondary. But as women step into their new roles, the value of that wisdom is beginning to emerge in unexpected ways….In drawing on women’s wisdom without apology and pushing that wisdom forward into positions of power, we can soothe our world and, maybe, even save it.”
When female wisdom remains untapped, women, men, families and organizations suffer. Look up wise woman in the dictionary. Mostly, it’s not there. My Shorter Oxford English Dictionary puts wise women out in the woods making charms. “A woman skilled in magic or hidden arts; a witch, sorceress, esp. a harmless or beneficent one, who deals in charms against disease, etc.”
A wise man is a “discrete and prudent man well versed in the affairs of the world.”
As a board chair or corporate executive, when times are tough, who are you going to call? Increasingly leaders recognize that inviting diverse wisdom is a business imperative as well as a personal imperative in today’s fast changing world. But, it’s hard to see beyond our unconscious bias and the dictionary definitions that guide our thinking and actions.
Our global economy runs on principles familiar to women: collaboration, cyclic change and the power of community. It makes good business sense to develop and invite wise feminine leadership, within ourselves, in teams and in our organizations.