A Manly Man

Unlike me, my husband reads and understands instruction manuals.

As a result, he is a bit of a geek when it comes to technology. Over the years, albeit with some cursing along the way, he has taught himself how to assemble computers, operate complicated software programs, and build his own websites.  However, something quite extraordinary happened about a month ago after he had wrestled with the increasing complexity of the website for his online kite store.

Yes, my darling husband admitted that regardless of how hard he worked or how many manuals he read, he needed help. He subsequently hired some genius working in India for what amounts to about $10 an hour who made the required upgrades and changes in less than a day.

While it was a tough decision for him to admit he didn’t have the answers, I personally think it was kind of hot. While he may think it’s less manly to admit he doesn’t have the answers, like many women I don’t have any such notion as I absolutely know I don’t and am okay admitting it on a daily basis.

It seems that understanding one doesn’t have the answers is critical for any leader operating in today’s complex environment. It doesn’t matter how smart one is or even if one is in the top box on the organization chart, the bottom line today is that no one person has all the answers.

For some men the shift to admitting they might not have all the answers, will often need to rely on others, and must work collaboratively in a flattened hierarchy, seems to be particularly difficult. It seems especially challenging for men who have an established formula for success and have progressed within their careers to the point where they are perceived as experts in their field. There is a great deal of pain and ego involved in letting go of their lone ranger mentality, when historically it has worked well, and to instead admit that having a posse is essential. As in the case of my husband, it takes a confident and self assured man to be willing to share power and control and adapt to a new way of working.

On the other hand it might just be that women are wired to reflect qualities that make them uniquely qualified to serve in leadership positions in today’s chaotic times.

Meg Whitman, the former CEO of eBay suggests female leaders are more likely to reflect a willingness to reinvent the rules, have an ability to sell their visions, the determination to turn challenges into opportunities, and a focus on ‘high touch’ in a high tech business world.

Another study shows that women leaders are more assertive and persuasive, have a stronger need to get things done, and are more willing to take risks than male leaders.  “Women leaders are venturesome, less interested in what has been than in what can be. They will run the risk of occasionally being wrong in order to get things done. And with their fine abstract reasoning skills, they will learn from any mistakes and carry on.”

While there is no doubt there is a need for male energy, spirit, and the unique skills they bring, there is a new and growing appreciation of the traits used to ensure strong families and communities that have more traditionally been identified with females. These include such traits as shared leadership, nurturance, flexibility, empathy, and contributing to the greater good. While these leadership skills may play more naturally to the strengths of women, they are essential for both males and females who want to make a difference.

Posted on 08-10-14

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