‘Look mummy, it’s a wife!’ – screamed my son cheerfully, whilst pointing to an image of a woman driving a tanker.
‘Ehm, she’s a woman, not necessarily a wife, darling. What makes you think she’s also a wife?’
My son is only 2 and half, so I didn’t quite get an answer to my question…I am sure his association of the words wife-woman is nothing to be concerned about, given his age… but I will ask him again in a few years!
This cute episode left me deep me in thought all afternoon. As I jumped on the train to meet with a male client, my mind started reflecting on what it is that I find different when coaching women and men. You know… there is a whole debate about women’s leadership being different than men’s. Some say women are more prone to listening, caring, feeling empathy etc., whilst men go more for the aggressive approach- fearless and ambitious.
I know, I am shooting you with stereotypes, but that’s what we generally hear, right?
Others say that this is all non sense… a leader is a leader, no matter what.
But is it?
There is lots of research that tries to back up both arguments, but here I will share my opinion based on my experience.
There is no doubt women and men are different, however when I observe my son playing with his male and female little friends, I don’t see much difference in the way they interact. If I were to remove the whole categorisation process that my brain has developed throughout my almost 40 years of life, I would probably keep focusing on this gender-neutral image.
Sadly, our society has fed us with assumptions, cues and categories which somehow went to form a gender framework we apply to understand people’s dynamics.
In simpler words, if we believe women should be caring and empathic, whilst men more reckless and head driven, that’s what we see.
If we believe that vulnerability is a weakness, hence it’s just something women can (or are allowed to) experience, that’s what we tend to see and expect.
But if you believe in pure coaching you also believe in the power of disabusing yourself of assumptions and judgement, before you begin a conversation with a client.
My experience of coaching men is that they are craving a space in which to be vulnerable, to be themselves and to be cared for, somehow. It’s the same story for women. What surprises me is that women tend to have more confidence when it comes to ‘letting go’ and exposing themselves. Perhaps, it’s because it’s considered acceptable?Men tend to have more resistance and they struggle with the idea of exposing themselves as who they really are. Fortunately, things are changing, otherwise why would men choose a path like coaching or other types of self-development?
What I am saying is: in leadership we expect to see gender differences, so we reinforce them. We expect leadership to be in a certain way, so we look for it, rather than thinking that there are different types of leadership, no matter the gender.
In my opinion, the best leaders are the ones with the highest self- awareness. How can you lead if you don’t know and accept who you are?
Above all, the vision of leadership is evolving. Fortunately, the old concept of considering a leader someone who is decisive, focused, pushy, aggressive and controlling does not have a monopoly anymore and does not resonate with everyone any longer. I don’t think we were born leaders – not in this era, anyway. Anyone who wants to make a great impact, who believes has something to offer and who approaches the world with this belief, is a leader. Then, you can also develop specific skills to be a better leader, if you want.
Unfortunately, there is perhaps still a self-confidence gap between women and men. Women in my experience are dragged down more often by imposter syndrome, perfectionism, society pressure to name a few, which often originate from self-doubt. This does not mean men are not affected by the same, of course, but the gap is still visible because women are perhaps more willing to admit it and talk about it.
Finally, when coaching, the crucial thing is always to listen, ask questions and give the person in front of us the opportunity to evaluate themselves.
So, do men and women lead in a different way? Simply put: no, people lead in a different way, but I don’t think gender is the main reason behind it.
What do you think? What’s your experience?
If you feel the need to have a safe space to reflect on your leadership style and understand what kind of leader you want to be, let’s talk. I would love to work wit you!
#leadership #coaching #kokoroconsultancy #genders #peoplematter #empathy #listening #employeeengagement