Recently, I read an article about the ways that women succeed in business. It prompted me to think about what it means for women and for our female students to become leaders in the future.
In the article, one woman leader discussed the ways that she became more confident as a woman. One area that she mentioned was her tendency to “play it safe” and not speak up in group meetings.
She observed that women will often start to address an issue with something like “I could be wrong here, but,” or “Maybe we should consider…” rather than a more direct approach.
At one point in my career, my boss gave me negative feedback on the ways I prepared for group discussions around a controversial issue. If it was something I felt very strongly about, I would have individual conversations with my peers so they would fully understand my position and why it was justified. My boss considered that style as a sign
of weakness, since he tended to just dominate the meeting until participants gave up. I saw my style as a way to build understanding and consensus.
While women tend to encourage participation and share power and information, I do believe that this leadership style is no longer limited to women. In our businesses and organizations, I believe we are moving toward a more “gender neutral” style of leadership where compassion and strength coexist among strong leaders, be they women or men.