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Leveraging the Energy of Genders: Betty Ann Heggie Newsletter
August 11, 2010
Think like a Woman to be a Better Leader

Can thinking like a woman make you a better leader, even if you are a man?
 
Recently, I’ve discussed how the left male side of the brain is detailed and defined while the right female side of the brain is holistic and interconnected. 

Does that brain preference affect our leadership style? 

Command and Control

Definitely. We’ve been dominated by left-brain masculine thinking and, as a result, we've instituted traditional command and control management systems. 

With more women moving into management, we'll see a surge of ‘Holistic Leadership,’ especially if women operate as women. The old defined hierarchy will naturally move to a modern integrated system. 

‘Holistic Leadership’ is a shared leadership model where employees are engaged and encouraged to be creative and productive. The model is based on four interdependent principles.

Learning is the lifelong quest for personal mastery. We have to improve ourselves if we want to share with others. If I was willing to learn as an executive and leader of my department, then my staff would follow me on the path to self-improvement. 

Performance evaluations in our company were rarely done, if ever. But, when a fellow executive of mine proposed we do 360 evaluations, I jumped at the chance. The chance to reflect on how I was doing my job paid huge dividends. From that time on, a set-back for any one of us became a "teaching moment." 

Directing is not just about being a results-oriented visionary, although that's part of it. It’s also about developing thought leaders at all levels of the corporation. Employees encouraged to bring ideas forward encourage others to do the same. 

I remember how good it felt and how effective it was to publicly credit someone from the secretarial pool for an idea that moved our company forward. Energy and ideas that come from the bottom-up – instead of from the top-down – establish ownership throughout the organization.

Participating aligns employees through power-sharing. Inclusion and commitment break down rigid silos which resist change. Effective leaders don’t just talk collaboration – they walk collaboration. They set the example and find common ground with those who differ. 

I experienced this when I introduced the sustainability program at PotashCorp. It required a transparency that many of my management team colleagues opposed. The key was finding common ground – and there is always some space we share. The program moved forward in a way that worked for all of us. 

Nurturing is showing empathy. Traditional leaders always think their shoes are the biggest. They have a hard time slipping into a pair that belongs to someone else! But listening to others and understanding their point of view allows us to experience how others feel.

I once had a boss who believed it was his job to convince everyone to think as he did. So rather than empathizing with you, he took every concern raised as a queue to deliver a lecture. In doing so, he missed the opportunity to benefit from a diversity of opinions, that surface when people feel safe to be themselves.

It takes a centered individual to tie these four elements together- one who pays attention to their physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual energy. 

Women and men who embrace this ‘Holistic Leadership’ model operate from both sides of their brains. They’re using both their masculine and feminine energies and using themselves as an instrument of what they would like to see in their own organizations.

Betty Ann Heggie
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