In business, women often bring a different set of leadership traits to the table than their male counterparts. These are considered more feminine traits such as collaboration, empathy, patience, and humility. Not all women leaders possess these traits and some women actually possess more masculine traits such as aggressiveness and competitiveness. But in a current work environment where employee engagement is a concern, expanding the number of women CEOs to more than the current level of 14% can only help reach some of these employees. According to Gallup, disengaged workers cost U.S. businesses $450-550 billion per year.
One of the major reasons that employees are disengaged is because they have poor relationships with their bosses. Utilizing the woman-side of leadership just might help to improve these relationships. I am not trying to use stereotyping in this article, but I am saying that having a greater representation of women executives offers an additional remedy to lower the disengagement problem many companies experience.
Here are four skills that smart leaders exhibit and can improve employee productivity and contentment in the workplace.
Model Mutual Respect with Employees
Women often possess a special knack for building meaningful relationships with others. They enjoy connecting and sharing. This is especially helpful when building a team culture with employees. Demonstrating an honest level of respect for those with whom you work can go a long way in making employees feel that they are a meaningful part of the workforce.
Smart female leaders are able to walk the talk and genuinely demonstrate the respect for others that they expect for themselves. This is a feminine trait that some men also exhibit but in a work environment where collaboration is often required, being able to respect one another is essential.
We have two ears and one mouth for a reason. Twice as much time should be spent listening as spent talking. Women leaders can use their conversation skills and begin to elicit from their employees what is on their minds. Women tend to be more discussion oriented; men more action oriented. Listening to concerns of the workforce allows leaders to make more informed decisions and allows employees to have their voices heard and opportunities for innovation will not fall between the cracks.
Embrace Passion for Their Work
Often women have a propensity to identify a passion and follow where it leads. If they are going to become heavily involved in a project, they want their energy spent on making a meaningful difference. Showing passion is considered a feminine trait and sometimes individuals—especially men—have a difficult time displaying emotions. Women are more likely to exhibit passion for their work, or a project, or a team activity. Embracing such positive energy can inspire others
Is the glass half empty or half full? Looking for the opportunities available from a glass half full is obviously going to produce more positive choices. But when considering opportunities, the masculine traits of competition and striving to win can be important in a cut-throat business environment and cannot be discounted. However, the feminine trait of building strong relationships and collaboration makes teams run smoothly, and provides a more comfortable work environment. Again I’m suggesting a blending of the masculine and feminine traits so that in a world dominated by male leaders, the feminine traits are not ignored.
According to a leadership study completed by the Zenger Folkman consultancy (Are Women Better Leaders Than Men?), women seem to feel a constant need to prove themselves. Women often responded: “In order to get the same recognition and rewards, I need to do twice as much, never make a mistake and constantly demonstrate my competence.” Yet in a business environment, where the style of leadership is more transformational than transactional, the feminine skills that many women bring to the table are highly valuable to the company’s well-being.
I’m not trying to make the case that women are better than men in leadership roles, but I am saying that expanding the number of women in leadership roles can only help meet the diverse needs of a diverse culture.