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Posted on 08.03.2010

Are Women and Men Managers Really That Different?

By nature and by trade….I am interested in communications. I had a lot of fun bantering back and forth with Jim Blasingame, well-known Small Business Advocate, on his recent radio show devoted to small business owners.  We were discussing male and female managers and, although we were talking in grand generalities and had a lot of laughs, we agreed there are some very basic differences in the way men and women communicate and perform as leaders.  It emanates from the fact that, in general, the sexes process information differently. I was first alerted to the “science” behind those differences when listening to a lecture given by biological anthropologist Dr. Helen Fisher.  After much study of the way the sexes think and communicate, Fisher points out some interesting capabilities of most women.  In her book, The First Sex, she lists many common characteristics, including:
  • a capacity to read postures, gestures, facial expressions and other non verbal cues;
  • excellent senses of touch, taste, smell and hearing;
  • an ability to do and think several things simultaneously;
  • a broad contextual view of any issue (called web thinking);
  • an impulse to nurture;
  • and a preference for cooperating, reaching consensus and leading via egalitarian teams.
By comparison, and generally speaking, men have their own set of natural talents, that include:
  • a superb understanding of spatial relations;
  • a talent for solving complex mechanical problems;
  • an ability to intensely focus on one thing at a time;
  • and a gift for controlling many of their emotions.
According to Fisher and many other experts, these differences play out in the management ranks of the workplace in a number of interesting ways.  Women make good strategists because they collect a broad range of information and look at issues or crises from a holistic perspective.  They want to gather data, look at all the angles, negotiate consensus, and talk through the options before settling on a position or resolution.  Men on the other hand are more reactive, dictatorial and focused on securing a swift and tidy resolution – sometimes with or without “buy-in” from colleagues, employees or associates.   Men will occasionally view women as not being focused; women can see men as being narrow-sighted or having “tunnel vision.” In terms of which style is more effective and will produce better results, I think the answer is:  Both.   And that is precisely why it is so important for businesses and organizations to have women and men leaders at the top, working on senior strategy, jointly call the shots during challenging times and bringing complementary approaches to the management of business. What do you think?  Is this all malarkey?  Have you had an experience where you noticed such a difference between the styles and strategies of men and women leaders?

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