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Women Were Raised to Be Nice. So What?

It’s been said that men view business as a sport and women view business as a picnic. In other words, men want to win while women want to make sure everyone has a sandwich and a good time. As you may have noticed, women have been repeatedly bashed for this as if “playing nice” were a pathetic and career-limiting move.

But is it really?

I mean, if there’s one thing we should all know by now, it’s that managing by power, aggression, and fear only creates a sicko race to the bottom. This – of course – is fantastic news for us girls. Because if ever there was a time when women should absolutely crush it as leaders, it’s right now. 

The rise of social media coupled with the fall of some reckless corporate giants has created a workforce that is savvy, cynical, and doesn’t stand for anything iron-fisted, closed-door, or homogenized. We want our leaders not only to be transparent, but to earn our respect, and those who manage “the old way” (that is, by authority alone) will be lapped by those who co-innovate from the front line. Sweeeeeet, right? Because while there are some areas where we (admittedly) miss the mark, leading by co-innovation isn’t one of them. Seriously, this stuff is built right in to our double-X chromosomes.

And the reason this is all so gosh-darned important to you, dear reader, is because team-building is a make-or-break career skill. To be successful in today’s workforce, you have to know how to pull the best from other people – and it ain’t about authority. Having authority is like having a gun in your closet: There if you need it, but you hope you never have to use it. Not to mention, the world doesn’t need any more “leaders” with a stick up their ass. The command and control model is dead. DEAD. We need people who can ignite – particularly in corporate offices where everyone is walking around in zombie-like trances doing things because they’re being “compliant,” not because they’re motivated.

But what is more motivating – the team leader who forces or the leader who encourages? If it’s clearly the one who encourages, then how can the solution to the “leadership gap” in business possibly be to make women meaner? Honestly, the next time you’re listening to someone wax on about about how women need to “get tougher” I want you to take off your shoe and throw it at their head. How’s that for playing nice?

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Pamela Ruiz June 18, 2012 at

I always enjoy your blog. Do you find that young women graduating college have the same gender/feminist experience that we’ve had, being in our mid-thirties? Have you found that they can recognize some of the gender differences and strengths, as well as challenges?

It seems like the generation (or two) after us have been raised within a different paradigm, a “you can do anything” and therefore I wonder if they are somewhat out of touch with the not-too-distant past, and arguably our present.

Anyway, deep thoughts for a Sunday evening.

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Emily Bennington June 18, 2012 at

Hi Pamela! Fabulous question. What I’ve found is that there are always insecuries and while no one would stand up and say “it’s because I’m a woman” (of course) the insecuries are in the same old classic areas, eg confidence, negotiation, etc. That said – with the younger women I speak to -you’re right- their biggest issues (from what I’ve seen) isn’t believing they can take over the world, but pinpointing *how.* These are sweeping generalizations of course but -more to your point – *no* I’m not getting any sense in the women I speak to that there’s anything to ‘fight’ for anymore. For example, when I talk about how only 4% of women are CEOs at F500 companies the prevailing attitude is that it’s personal choice not any glass ceiling holding others back….which is kind if cool if you think about it (the attitude not the stat. :) Thanks for reading!

-EB

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