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Good afternoon leaders!

Today I wanted to discuss with you all the importance of empathy when being a leader, specifically for all you male leaders out there! As a leader, one of the most critical learning elements is how to be better understanding and caring of people you lead. In the modern workforce, recognition and care are big aspects that drive talent to your organization and they’re essential to building a successful modern workplace. Yet many male leaders have a difficult time recognizing and being sensitive to what others are feeling because they grew up with little modeling on how to do so. As a result, many male executives and leaders don’t possess all the skills necessary to be successful, but if we look at women in the workplace we can see the traits they possess that males lack.

For many men, being sensitive and vulnerable turns into being aggressive. Aggression is a form of protection and a way to retain masculinity. So, when men are mad they’re strong, and when they’re strong, they’re safe. In the eyes of most men, vulnerability and being sensitive is a sign of weakness.

A Successful Leader is Self-Aware, Empathetic, and Humble

In the modern workforce, a successful leader is able to think analytically, strategically, and creatively while also being self-aware, empathetic, and humble. For male leaders to be better understanding and more caring of people they lead, they must acknowledge their own fears and insecurities. When doing so, people tend to feel safer and are easier to work with.

In the workplace though, it’s common that most women possess the above mixture of qualities more so than men. It’s a part of our cultural upbringing. Men are measured based on their ability to demonstrate strength and confidence while hiding their feelings. It’s their external accomplishments and the ability to prevail over others that proves a man’s “success.”

Unfortunately, the above is prevalent among many major CEO’s and senior level executives. They resist reflecting upon their own personal thoughts and emotions. They’d rather assess outcomes versus managing humans and their emotions. What ends up happening is that these leaders become difficult to work with because they are unable to budge or understand the connection between how employees feel and how they perform.

What Men Can Learn from Female Leadership

Now before any of you make the argument that the above isn’t necessarily true, you’re correct. Comparatively, senior level female executives can follow the same path as their male counterparts because they feel in order to be successful, they must adapt to the style of their boss. As a result, they become emotionally limited and are unable to connect with their subordinates.

At the same time, independently thinking female leaders bring a broader and more complete range of skills that are required by modern leaders. This includes being self-aware, being aware of the emotions of others, being humble, and being authentic. In a study of 7,300 leaders conducted by Jack Zenger and Joseph Folkman, they found that women scored higher in 12 out of 16 key leadership skills. The study rated leaders by their peers, supervisors, and performance results. The results showed female leaders made greater attempts at developing skills, increasing collaboration, and encouraging self-development.

Only 14% of All Senior Executive Positions at Fortune 500 Companies Are Held by Women

So, although it’s been studied that female leaders can possess a wider range of leadership qualities, only 14% of all senior executive positions in Fortune 500 companies are held by women.

Why is that? Well, culturally, men tend to solve issues with strength while women look for resources. Men battle self-actualization with exaggeration, while women tend to be insecure. Men seek to win, women seek to connect.

If we think about the road to an executive position, it’s a struggle that proves to others how much stronger and more successful you are, so it’s not surprising men take the position more frequently.

In the Modern Workforce, Male Leaders Need to Acknowledge Their Weaknesses as Much as Their Strengths

Unfortunately for the male leaders that only work on their biceps…single leadership skills and qualities are not enough for today’s multi-dimensional workforce. In the modern workforce, we need leaders that aren’t afraid to stand down or lend an ear. Leaders need to acknowledge their weaknesses just as much as their strengths so they can become well developed in multiple areas rather than relying on the strength and success of one leadership trait. Even more importantly, we need female leaders to step up and demonstrate their strength and confidence. Today’s workforce requires a new generation of leaders that embrace both male and female leadership qualities. Only then we can break down the culturally defined gender norms of previous leaders.

How do you plan to become a more sensitive and aware leader? Let us know!


About Author

Doug Bolger is the world’s foremost instructional designer for participant-driven designs. He is changing how the world works, by changing how the world learns.


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