Post by Patricia Hewitt, contributing Women On Business writer
In March of 2000, an extraordinary book was published. “How Nature Made Him” by John Colapinto, which was the story of a boy that was raised as a girl. In a cruel twist of fate, this boy lost his male sexual organ during a routine infant circumcision. His distraught parents sought expert advice, which in 1967, was to simply raise him as a girl. The expert his parents consulted believed that “nurture” would always win over “nature” and their boy could be turned into a girl if they tried hard enough.
They tried and tried and tried, but after enduring years of misery, the young man reclaimed his true identity only to eventually succumb to his demons and take his own life. It was a tragic ending to a tragic story. In reflecting on our human propensity to turn nature against itself – think about forcing children who are left-handed to use their right hand – we have to consider the question of how we begin to agree with these standards of being in the first place.
Some years ago I used this story to begin a presentation on how women are natural leaders. The reason I chose this particular story is because so often, women are asked to be something other than themselves in order to “succeed”, when it is actually the natural abilities women have that make them great leaders. It’s been my experience that often women subjugate these abilities in an effort to be part of the “club” and in so doing, are less effective and less nurturing to other women. In effect, we turn against ourselves.
A University of Pennsylvania study found that “female managers typically display the virtues of facilitation best and therefore are better adapted to succeed in the New Economy that requires less hierarchical managerial models and more interactive managerial models.” In other words, women are better able to mediate and facilitate the building of successful teams.
Sally Helgesen’s “Web of Inclusion” states: “A postindustrial organization requires integrated and organic organizations which focus on nurturing good relationships…where lines of communication are multiplicitous, open, and diffuse”. Women have the ability to connect to individuals and motivate them on a personal level.
Brian Wad, top leadership consultant, states – “The 5 keys of leadership are: focus, authenticity, courage, empathy, and timing. Above all – Take Action.” How many times have you been involved in a situation at work that required action, and it was the female manager who took the ball and ran with it; whether anyone realized it or not?
A few years ago, Business Week documented 31 measures of leadership performance. Women outranked men by a full 28% in all categories. In it, they wrote: “Women are better leaders because the essence of what women leaders do is interact with people. They share power and information, enhance others’ self worth by listening and get others motivated”. The study goes further to state, “The most important organizational change is the shift to a horizontal corporation. The resulting organization structure favors workers who excel at influencing others.”
All women possess the innate ability to envision the future, yet live in the present. They have to do this by virtue of their natural position of being life givers and caretakers of our future in our children. And whether a woman is a mother or not makes no difference; we all possess these capabilities. They are our natural role in the circle of life. What amazed me when I entered the workforce thirty-five years ago continues to amaze me and that is that these same capabilities are defined as power-less, not power-full in the managerial world – if a woman displays them.
When I was doing research for this presentation, I came across a very curious fact from a surprise source and here it is: Sarah Blaffer Hardy, an anthropologist studying primates found that “Female primates are competitive, in that they seek status with their social order. So, it would follow that women strive for status too. However, when primates compete, they do so in ways that increase the survival of their offspring.” In other words, they compete as a means of ensuring continuity and stability.
This brings me to a humble suggestion as this New Year’s resolution – use the gifts you’ve been given.