Many times, female leaders (and women in the workspace) struggle with feelings of inadequacy. They feel ignored or have a hard time asserting themselves and getting recognition for their accomplishments.
And in many cases, these aren’t just feelings. Women are often talked over or interrupted in meetings. They see others take credit for their ideas and results. And they even face microaggressions like comments on their appearance, their choice of motherhood or not, their age, or even their professional skills and education.
As women, we regularly feel like the bar is set higher for fellow women than for our male counterparts. We need to prove our worth and our “right” to fill the seats that we do. And we do this while carrying out the job responsibilities.
Unfortunately, women in leadership face these issues by adopting what’s typically considered a more “masculine” behavior. If you’ve been in a similar situation, you may have found yourself being (or trying to be) more aggressive, adopting “masculine” postures, or suppressing your thoughts.
But adopting traditionally “masculine” behaviors is not the answer. Instead, we can aim to find balance between masculine and feminine leadership. Here’s what that entails.
What Is Feminine Leadership?
Feminine leadership is a style of leadership that focuses on qualities traditionally associated with femininity. It encompasses qualities like empathy, inclusion, and nourishment to create a safe space for coworkers to work together toward a shared objective. The priority in feminine leadership is to build relationships and an environment where employees can thrive.
This is a stark contrast to masculine leadership, a leadership style typically associated with performance metrics and competitive cultures. Masculine leadership is what we traditionally consider leadership — especially in corporate environments.
While these are traditional molds, the truth is that there are as many leadership styles as there are leaders. And striking a balance between masculine and feminine elements ensures you’re able to lead effectively and achieve your objectives.
The Characteristics of Feminine Leadership
Feminine leadership emphasizes soft skills like effective communication and cooperation to keep employees engaged and fulfilled. It balances actions and objectives with the employees’ human nature (rather than focusing on pressure-inducing methods or competitive behaviors) to foster growth and productivity.
One of the most essential “soft skills” in feminine leadership is communication. It’s not enough to order employees to do something. Instead, feminine leadership shares the vision and objectives and encourages employees to find the direction collaboratively. This seemingly small difference is empowering and helps employees feel engaged and ready to take on new challenges.
Another crucial skill in relationship-building is empathy. This goes in hand with recognizing our human nature. Of course, every business has an objective that’s larger than the sum of the business’s parts. But the people who form the organization have individual needs and life experiences that can impact the organization. It’s vital for a leader to be able to put themselves in the shoes of those around them, listen attentively, and create a judgment-free space for employees to propose new ideas or speak up without fear of retaliation.
Feminine leadership is also about admitting our own limitations. No one is infallible, but leaders are often hesitant to show vulnerability out of fear of being perceived as weak. This isn’t the case in feminine leadership, where asking for help and admitting our shortcomings or limitations is a strength because it allows others to step in so that together, everyone can rise.
Becoming a More Feminine Leader
It’s not uncommon for females in leadership to be told to toughen up or even “man up” in the workplace. We’ve come to internalize this as it’s deeply ingrained in corporate culture.
But the reality is that feminine leadership is a powerful driver of growth and prosperity. It’s enough to look at how countries with female leaders fared in the pandemic to see the positive impacts of women in leadership positions. And multiple studies show that companies with women in leadership roles are more successful than those without.
Considering these outcomes, it’s easy to see why embracing femininity and typically feminine traits in the workplace is a powerful move for successful leadership.
To start, you can let go of the antiquated notions of what a “true” or “effective” leader looks like. Abandon aggressiveness, competitivity, and other stereotypical leadership traits in favor of assertive communication, collaboration, and relationship-building to foster psychological safety and increase engagement among your staff.
Next, consider these questions as you work on your professional and leadership development:
- Have you worked with a great leader you admired? It could be your manager, the company’s owner, or a coworker. Ask yourself what you admired about them and how you can replicate those traits.
- What did you need from your leaders in previous jobs or positions? Consider how you can fulfill those needs for your own team now that you’re in leadership.
And finally, go straight to the source: Talk to your employees directly. Learn from them about their needs, goals, and how you can better serve them as a leader.
Are you in a new position or working on your leadership skills? I can help you uncover the best version of yourself. Book a consultation now.