At the iMedia Agency Summit in Lost Pines, Texas, author Daina Middleton tells the audience a story about a woman, a man, and their different approaches to the same problem. Though dramatized in order to teach, this was a true story, based upon real experiences.
Grace and Grit are both managers. Their boss calls them in, and explains that there is a code red situation. Everyone must pull out all of the stops, so that the business is able to make their numbers this month.
Both Grace and Grit get to work, but they approach the situation in very different ways. Grit sits down at his computer and spends the day firing off emails to every member of his team, assigning them tasks. At the end of the day, he sends a summary email to his boss, detailing the action that he has taken, and what the result of that will be.
Grace, however, has met with each member of her staff, both as a team and individually. She schedules a number of meetings, during which time she gathers insights. She makes sure that each member of her team is informed, and asks them for feedback. At the end of the day, she too compiles the information she has gathered, but doesn't send off an email.
To summarize, here are the qualities that each demonstrated: Grit believes in taking immediate action, and that status, power, and authority are of vital importance -- this is why he sends the email. He's looking to find a decisive solution, and fix the issue. Grace, on the other hand, is balancing short and long-term needs. She is highly relationship-focused, and her primary objective is that everyone involved has a voice.
These are two different leadership styles, and they are each innately tied to the gender of manager in question. We are always being evaluated on our leadership behaviors, says Middleton. Both of these styles are relevant, great, and valuable, but they are different, and that's where the issue often comes in.
Male leadership is alive and well. As a women rises, there are fewer other women at each level. So there is a male standard, albeit a very subtle one. Women are more than likely reporting to a man, and therefore don't get good, specific feedback, because the male bosses in questions are misinterpreting the ways in which they operate.
Are you skeptical? Well, all of this is reinforced by science. We're wired differently, explains Middleton. Not only that, but women are more likely to succeed later in life, and they tend to practice self-improvement into their later years as well.
The behaviors that we feel we need to successful are those that we're comfortable with, and in a male-dominated society, those traits are those that Grit showed: Driven, confident, powerful, etc. And while you may be weary of the equality conversation, the increase in female leadership in the last few years has brought about a huge opportunity to look at these behaviors, and to analyze in order to see what both sides bring to the table.
Grace's style is referred to as transformational leadership, while transactional (i.e. "you do this, I'll do that") is Grits'. Transformational leadership is based on the idea that a leader invests in his or her people. This helps a business become more successful through relationships. And, adds Middleton, of the nine behaviors that are known to improve organizational performance, five of these are a part of Grace's style, while only two are from Grits', and the other two are seen in both.
Middleton leaves us with these final thoughts: Her mission is to prepare women for the moment when they realize that their style is different than that of their male bosses or coworkers. Leadership behavior is as important as equality in the business world, and transformational leadership will drive results. Therefore, we need to encourage and sponsor these women, in order for them to climb the ladder.