Feminine management style: not just a woman’s affair

23 August 2018
SERIES Transitioning into a leadership position: notes from the OTT Fellows 8 items

A transition to a higher position, especially within the same organisation where peers might face some challenges in recognising us a new leader, is a great opportunity to allow feminine qualities to emerge. Within the Fellowship Programme, we have explored the potential of better uniting masculine and feminine qualities in leadership, and we have agreed on the need to work and enhance this feminine muscle to enable a new way of leading, inspiring and motivating staff.

“Feminine management” is understood as management which puts forward ‘soft skills and behaviours’ such as empathy, nurturing, open communication, credit distribution, etc. and which generally promotes a more democratic work environment. These traits are usually attributed to women as opposed to ‘hard managerial skills’ such as tough-minded decision making, competitiveness, etc. which are considered masculine. Although the tendency, both biologically and culturally, is for women to embody feminine leadership traits+, in fact, both men and women can exhibit feminine or masculine leadership qualities depending on the task to be performed.+

In this article, the case is made for the promotion of a feminine management style -especially within transitions where there is a need to find common ways of growing individually and as a group. According to the human capital theory this type of management could bolster a company’s profits through a tendency for cooperative decision making, ability to share power and communicate well, experience in nurturing the development of others and comfort with less hierarchical organisations (Fondas et Mason).

Indeed, the trend in business management has shifted in recent years from hard vertical hierarchical structures to looser horizontal structures which are more democratic. This latter disposition is compatible with a flexible management style such as the feminine management style.

Besides, research shows that the feminine management style has transformational qualities+. Transformational leadership causes change in individuals and social systems. It creates valuable and positive change in individuals with the end goal of developing them into leaders. Transformational leadership enhances the motivation, morale and performance of teammates through a variety of mechanisms such as connecting their sense of identity and self to the mission and the collective identity of the organisation (Langston.edu).

In other words, a feminine management style is well in tune with transformational leadership which allows individual team members or colleagues to develop both their personal identity and that of the collective for the greater good of the organisation. So, to benefit from all these positive rewards, what feminine skills or qualities is a leader supposed to nurture?

  1. View colleagues as partners: ask for their opinions and listen to what they have to say. Incorporating their input into your decision making will enhance their feeling of belonging to the organisation and giving them a voice and space to co-create the way forward is a unique opportunity to step up as a valuable leader;
  2. Foster collaboration: promote policies and systems that encourage teamwork and knowledge exchange. Innovation emanates from exchange, this will also make employees feel that they are part of a whole;
  3. Establish dialogue: giving and requesting feedback, both positive and negative and encouraging open discussions with your colleagues. This can be done through evaluation forms (manager and employee) – this is more discretionary, or during annual retreats – taking a moment to reflect collectively on the way results are achieved within the organisation; both instances have been further explored in the sections above;
  4. Show empathy: everybody goes through some tough times; sometimes also, some people take longer to get acquainted with a new system, etc. Don’t overlook that. Accompany colleagues/ teammates to the best of your abilities towards achieving organizational goals. This will enhance the sense of relevance to the leader and to the organisation.

That being said, good leadership is about finding a right balance between sensitivity and connectivity to one’s environment and maintaining order and a level of rigorousness. Young and emerging leaders have a unique chance to exercise masculine and feminine qualities in new and valuable ways.