Build Your Leaders

Postcard from Asheville

February 2011

If you've been reading this eNewsletter for a while, ever attended one of my workshops, or even seen my art, you know I am interested in the balance between the masculine and feminine.

 Swiss psychiatrist Carl Jung taught that men possess an "anima," a feminine, soft, supportive, and passive aspect of their personality, while women have an "animus," an array of masculine, aggressive, competitive personality traits. When we allow both the anima and animus to unfold and flourish we become more psychologically complete and balanced.

 This month, we'll take a closer look at the war between the sexes.


In the War Between the Sexes, Are Men Losing?

“Are you divorced?” I asked my new friend innocently, not prepared for the tirade that would follow. “Yep,” she snapped, “I woke up one morning and realized I was making good money, managing the house, and taking care of the kids, and this worthless sack of sh-- was contributing next to nothing to the relationship, other than complaining that I had gotten fat. So I kicked him out.”  While her response was jarring, it wasn’t the first time I had heard it. 

Not less than two weeks ago, someone told me about another female friend who had given her hubby the boot for the exact same reasons. What’s the problem?  Wives are supposed to take the place of our mothers and take care of us – right?  “Wrong!” most women emphatically answer. “We don’t need another child.”  

Some women are finding that men are expendable in the bedroom too. “Two batteries and I’m good to go,” a young friend shared as my face turned the color of a University of Georgia football jersey. Another female friend recently took a lesbian lover. She is the second woman I know who in her fifties – after several husbands and a slew of male lovers – has opted for a woman. “She understands me; we understand each other,” she says.

Even the boardroom, once a bastion for the male ego, is feeling the feminine effect. This has been the case for a while. The image of business today is being altered, wrote futurist Faith Popcorn in her 1996 bestselling book Clicking.  “(Business is) no longer seen as a war to be won by trouncing the competition, but viewed as a complicated mosaic to be developed, one relationship at a time.”

In her book, Popcorn identified a rising trend for solving business and relational problems with “feminine attributes” such as consensus building, sensitivity, and intuition.  She called this trend “FemaleThink” but was quick to point out it is not gender specific.  FemaleThink may come more naturally to women, but men can master it as well.

For years studies have been showing that women managers are outperforming men in the workplace (Business Week, November 20, 2000).  “In fact, it’s becoming evident that the most valuable skills one can have in twenty-first century business are those that women have historically possessed, those having to do with people and process and relationship and connection,” writes Matthew Gilbert in his book Communications Miracles at Work. 

A more feminine way of communicating is being embraced in today’s workplace. In fact, I recently read of a consultancy in England that trains businessmen how to communicate more like women.

According to Gilbert, a feminine communication and interaction style includes being:

  1. More process-oriented; more patient; and more likely to see “shades of gray.”
  2. More collaborative; less turf conscious; seeking the “win-win.”
  3. Good listeners, facilitators, and coaches.
  4. Open, sensitive, emotional, and empathetic.
  5. Willing to admit mistakes and express concern and/or sympathy.

Business is increasingly rewarding employees for people skills as much as business skills.  The reasons are simple: not only is the rising number of women in business influencing company communication, so is the marketplace.  As the competition for the most skilled employees intensifies, smart companies are realizing the importance of interpersonal skills in attracting and retaining employees.  In the future, only those companies that reward such communication skills as empathy, authenticity, vulnerability, and mutual empowerment will survive and thrive. 

The rising trend of “FemaleThink” doesn’t mean men need to be more like women. If that were to happen, we would be no better off than we were in the 1980s, when many women were compelled to closet their femininity in order to compete in male-dominated business.  Instead, business today is challenging both men and women to seek a stronger balance between their inner masculine and feminine energies.

Businesswomen may benefit from training in strategic planning and selling skills, while men in business may benefit from training in such skills as listening, sensitivity to interpersonal differences, and giving and receiving constructive feedback. 
Corporate cultures – indeed our society -- must blend the feminine with the masculine. Decisions must be made, but process must be respected.  Connection must be as valued as much as competition.  Leadership skills must be complemented by consensus building. Perhaps most important, men and women must learn to respect each others’ styles and learn from one another.

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