Balancing masculine and feminine leadership

Blending Feminine and Masculine Qualities Makes for Better Balanced Leadership

Leadership has historically been thought of as a masculine trait, associated with all sorts of action words: “Initiate” “Direct” “Command” “Take Charge”.

In centuries past, men were the leaders and leadership often took shape in the form of military campaigns which is where a good bit of our historical leadership language came from.

Leadership has evolved significantly over the last century, as more and more women formally join the ranks of those in charge. One of the biggest challenges facing women who lead, is the dilemma of whether or not taking on a leadership role means having to eschew their feminine traits in favor of traditionally male leadership qualities.

In reality, most of us incorporate a variety of leadership styles into our daily lives. The ability to understand your team and your audience will ultimately inform the traits you bring to your role. Blending a variety of masculine and feminine qualities makes for a balanced leadership style that engages and inspires, while also motivating and getting results.

What are typical masculine and feminine leadership traits?

Common Masculine Leadership Traits:

  • Strong
  • Aggressive
  • Powerful
  • Commanding
  • Confident
  • Ambitious
  • Decisive
  • Logical
  • Self-Reliant
  • Controlling

Common Feminine Leadership Traits:

  • Intuitive
  • Compassionate/empathetic
  • Collaborative
  • Multi-tasking
  • Trustworthy
  • Polite
  • Sincere
  • Emotional
  • Inclusive
  • Patient

It’s important to note that monikers “masculine” and “feminine” have little to do with gender in the context of male and female. They are traits that are associated with masculine or feminine energy (think Yin and Yang). A male leader can embrace feminine traits and a female leader can take on masculine traits.

When both sets of traits are balanced authentic leadership can take hold. We all inherently possess both masculine and feminine qualities. In many cases these traits show up on a situational basis, but because leadership has traditionally been an arena of masculine energy dominance, many male and female leaders believe leadership roles are exclusively the domain of masculine energy, leaving little room for the influence of feminine energy.

Here’s the thing… Engagement is crucial for success, no matter what size team you lead – even if you’re a team of one, engagement has a powerful impact on motivation, productivity, and customer satisfaction.

Leadership from a strictly masculine perspective is heavy on a directive, command and control style that can inhibit the sense of collaboration, purpose and belonging that drives engagement.

Many organizations from multinational corporations to small businesses have discovered that feminine leadership traits play a positive role in team engagement. Some of the most in-demand qualities now include empathy, inclusiveness, balance, collaboration, and humility.

Drawing from the strengths of both the masculine and feminine increases the satisfaction of team members while minimizing the potential downside of burnout and apathy that can result from a strictly masculine leadership style. Even when you’re not officially in charge of a team, effectively balancing these energies can help establish you as a leader in your field.

Blending the masculine and feminine as a leader starts with an awareness of your leadership style. As you strive toward a balanced approach, ask yourself:

  •  What traits do you embody as a leader? Make a list of the feminine and masculine qualities that you innately bring to leadership.
  • As you look over your list, is there an imbalance that weighs heavily toward one end of the spectrum?
  • What additional traits do you value, or what is still underrepresented on your list?
  • Does your style feel authentic to you? Does it come easy, or do you feel a sense of incongruence between your authentic self and your leadership style?

As you examine your style, establish balance by bringing in underrepresented traits that align with your values. Seek feedback from trusted peers and mentors who can provide additional perspective and advice.

Broaden your style by selecting one new leadership quality to focus on and incorporate it into your role. Once you have comfortably implemented that trait, bring in another, and so on. Over time, you will find yourself living more authentically into your unique leadership style.

The more you exercise these new qualities in your leadership practice, the easier it becomes to lead from a place of energetic balance. As your balanced style becomes second nature, you’ll see your team’s satisfaction increase.

The result: a more satisfied team, increased productivity, and happier customers, making for an all around winning situation. 

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