Leading Boldly: a Feminist Approach to Leadership

By: Norene Ball, Coordinator of Hallmark Programs, YWCA McLean County & Rev. Cheree’ Johnson, YWCA Board Member & Hallmark Committee Chairperson

ImageFor the first time in history, women today outnumber men in the rate of college graduations. In fact, 40% of women in the United States are now the primary breadwinners of the family. As of 2012, women outnumber men in the workforce and are moving into leadership positions in record numbers. However, rather than depending on their own instinctive leadership styles, many women are still employing a male version of leadership which is hierarchal in nature and depends on power to enforce change. For years, this model of male leadership has been recognized for utilizing both money and fear to dominate the corporate world.

Female leaders today have many of the same qualities as their male colleagues, especially an ability to set high goals and inspire others to fulfill them. But women are different in some particular ways that make them valuable additions to decision making teams. Many consider women’s leadership to be naïve because it is not a style that needs to be in control, or demands that employees adapt to a system that is already in place. Feminine leadership does not punish or hold grudges; instead it helps employees recognize that they are an integral part of the organization and their best efforts are needed to make the organization successful. Feminine leadership is collaborative; it nurtures and develops the gifts of those around the leader. Women leaders tend to be more empathic and flexible, as well as stronger in interpersonal skills than their male counterparts. These qualities combine to create a leadership style that is inclusive, open, consensus building, collaborative and collegial. Women are more motivated by the purpose or meaning of their work than men, who tend to focus on compensation and job titles. According to Forbes Magazine, women also tend to show more emotions at work and are more risk averse.

Today, many businesses are starting to take a closer look at this collaborative style that is so familiar to women. Some are starting to recognize that today’s complex organizational problems are not simply solved by one man, but require imagination and creativity that comes through cooperative and collaborative problem solving. Indeed, most of the skills women typically hone in their private life transition well into the corporate world.

As this unique and collaborative style of leadership emerges and advances, many male leaders are in fact turning to this new approach to leading an organization. YWCA McLean County recently gained a new male leader, recognized and championed for his collaborative and humanistic approach to leadership. When asked about his leadership style, new President and CEO, D. Dontae Latson responded with “I think many male leaders fail to realize the importance of encompassing both the EQ (emotional quotient) as well as the IQ (intelligence quotient) in the work place.”

Women start careers in business and other professions with the same level of intelligence, education, and commitment as men. All men and women with the ability, the desire, and the perseverance to lead should be encouraged to fulfill their potential and leave their mark. In today’s world, women do not need to fear bringing their own style of leadership to the workplace.

For more information, contact Norene Ball, Coordinator of Hallmark Programs at YWCA McLean County. Hallmark programs promote YWCA’s mission through programs and services that influence racial justice and women’s economic empowerment. She can be reached at (309) 662-0461 x265 or email nball@ywcamclean.org

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