Should leaders be more feminine?

Amelie Mauresmo Image courtesy Virgil27

Amelie Mauresmo
Image courtesy Virgil27

First much speculation and then comment about Andy Murray appointing a female coach, and then Francois Hollande headlines with his intention to ‘feminise’ diplomacy, and appoints a female as French Ambassador to London. So why all the fuss? And what’s it got to do with leadership?

Essentially, the fuss stems from the fact that we still live in a sexist world where people, mostly men, find it hard to believe that a women can perform satisfactorily in a ‘man’s role’.

Thus, the appointment of Amelie Mauresmo by Andy Murray goes against the tennis ‘premier league’ norms where there have only been two other men coached by a woman.

Similarly, only 21.8 percent of senior management positions from 260 UK diplomatic missions were filled by women in 2010. Even worse, a marriage bar on single females in the diplomatic service existed until 1972, and the first female married Head of Consulate was not appointed till 1987.

Such imbalance is not unique to sport and diplomacy but a well publicised issue in the corporate world as well. The question for leaders is what qualities such females are thought to offer that are scarce in males? When commenting about Mauresmo, Murray probably captured part of it when he said:

“After I spoke to her the first time I just really liked her. She was calm. She asked a lot of questions. She listened. She listened a lot.”[1]

Another insight comes from Sylvie-Agnès Bermann, the recently appointed French ambassador to London who, when compared to the previous ambassador, is said to be:

“a lot less confrontational and favours discussions about the arts and culture to aggressive arguments.”[2]

The theme here is that stereotypically men don’t listen and tend towards confrontation; and that these traits can be unhelpful when working with others. To ensure you are a well rounded leader, we must ask:

  1. Just how much do you listen? And should you do more?
  2. How confrontational do you tend to be? And should you be less?

Sometimes leaders need to be confrontationally deaf, but it does make it hard to bring people with you.

[1] Quoted by Barry Wood in ABCNews.go.com, 10 June 2014

[2] Peter Allen in The Evening Standard, 18 June 2014

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One comment

  1. VEIGA Nicholas · · Reply

    So true!

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