[note background=”#F6F6F6″] This is a guest post by Professor Fernando Pargas, the author of the book Ending the Male Leadership Myth. He teaches management at James Madison University in Virginia. His specialties are international management, interpersonal skills and organizational behavior. You may connect with Professor Pargas on Google+. [/note]
Leadership, it’s such a powerful, yet overly used word in our society. We teach it in universities, not only as content in a business class, but entire semesters and workshops are dedicated to it.
Politicians have adopted it for their own needs: they criticize their opponent for his/her lack of “leadership” and bill themselves as great leaders. We men are particularly fond of the word; it was men who came to believe that simply by being male, we had a birth given right to it.
It was easy to research for my latest book examples of the use and misuse, understanding and misunderstanding of leadership, but it was harder to realize how much I too had bought into the misnomer of leadership. I wrote there that as an international executive in charge of establishing, opening, joint venturing or managing businesses around the world, I experienced this blind faith in leadership first-hand.
On occasions when the results in that particular country were good, as evidenced mostly by large profits but also by satisfied customers, I received rave reviews, accolades, awards, and large bonuses. According to the CEO and the board of Directors, my leadership was the unquestionable reason for the fabulous results seen in country X.
I admit that I was often guilty of not being too vocal in pointing out that the conditions for our type of business in country x were in fact the perfect storm for making money. In some cases it would have been practically impossible NOT to make money. It was perhaps in spite of me that we made money. A cocker spaniel given my job would also have been fairly successful in those cases. At other times, I would use the same business school education and determination, the same skill and confidence, the same or harder work and effort, the same strategy and know-how and expertise, and the business (this time in country Y) would fail or break even, or not make very much money at all. At those times I shamelessly pointed out all the negative forces that had conspired to make the new venture difficult at best and a recipe for disaster at worst.
I had taken the praise before with a low key and pseudo modest air, but now complained to anyone who would listen how difficult it was. Either way I was the same executive. Surprisingly, the kudos I had received before because of the business’ success in country X that had been attributed to my “leadership” would dry up this time, since the reason for the failure or lackluster results was clearly the result of…wait…my “lack of leadership”!?
How can that be? How can I be a phenomenally astute and capable leader in Australia, but a lousy and inept one in Brazil?
I was the same guy… doing what I always did… launching some of these markets at the same time or months apart.
Some business books still teach about the differences and similarities between managers and leaders. In business and in academia, I have often heard someone describe a colleague, employee, or direct report as a “great manager” but “not much of a leader.” That is, by definition, incorrect. There is no such thing as a great manager who is also a terrible leader. What organization, whether for profit or nonprofit would want a manager who can’t lead (motivate, inspire, strategize, plan) or a leader who can’t manage (understand management control tools, his/her employees productivity measures, the fit of goals vs. results)?
History is full of examples of companies that have failed, some of them because they had what they thought were leaders who could not manage and others because they had what they thought were good managers who could not lead. But if you are very good at one of these you are, by definition, at least pretty good at the other. Perhaps the most important tool in the toolbox of great leadership is possession of good interpersonal skills. Good communication (both in written form and speech), intuition, emotional and social intelligence, keeping the ego in check, and listening are skills that are critical to good leadership.
Men, far more than women, like to think that if we do that which makes us great leaders we will succeed no matter what. It is ironic that women often make better managers and leaders than men. The greatest irony of all is that, as a Management professor I must teach my students each semester that there are many recent studies that analyze those attributes that account for better leadership and women score higher in most of them. One of them is good listening skills… as if we needed to conduct a multi-million dollar study to research which gender is better at listening!!??
The world needs new leadership that is real leadership. Women are ideally suited for this new chapter in our evolution. Female leadership centers on building and maintaining relationships. By contrast, male leadership depends on competition and winning. It’s no wonder that the United States Congress of 2012 is the legislative body with less accomplished in the history of politics. Making the other guy look bad and blocking anything that will make him look good is what we men are mostly about.
In the new age powered by relationships, coalitions and consensus, the male style of single leaders will not work. Female leadership is the recipe for getting us out of the mess we find ourselves in. For us men to be successful leaders we need to take a few cues from women.
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Professor Pargas and his publisher, Bekham Publications Group have graciously offered to give away 25 copies of this book to my readers on this blog. The qualification criteria is very simple. You follow these three easy steps and we will randomly select 25 participants to receive a copy of this book:
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That's all and we will enter your name in the list of people who will be selected to receive a FREE copy of this book. If you have any questions for Professor Pargas, please ask your questions in the comments section as well. He will be very happy to respond to you. Thank you kindly!
This is an interesting blog. I agree women leaders focus on relationship. If that is true, no wonder women leaders are better.
Yes Kapil. I had the privilege to review the book recently and there are some AWESOME insights from the author about the leadership abilities of men and women and how can we change the world if we work in a cohesive manner.
This sounds like such a nice reading. I am intrigued by this article and looking forward to reading the book. Since Kumar has a copy, I’ve a copy as well. So, it’s my turn to read this book.
Thank you Prof. Fernando for this post.
Dear Snigdha: Based on the topic of the book, you had priority!!! Hope you enjoy it.
Thank you. I wanted to ensure I am the first one to comment :-)I enjoyed your writing very much.
Thank a lot to Prof. Fernando, for such an nice article with clear viewpoint in a complicated topic. I enjoyed reading this one. Hopefully I will enjoy reading free e-book too.
I would like to add a quotes on my comment:
“If Lehman Brothers had been Lehman Brothers and Sisters we probably wouldn’t have had our financial meltdown.” – Betty Spence
Wow! That is an awesome quote Ranjan. Thank you for sharing!
Ha ha, this is priceless Ranjan, I will share with my students your “Lehman Brothers and Sisters” comment, they will really get it. Isn’t it true that when men and women team up not only can great things happen, but as you say: we can prevent far more harm than when we act alone? A really good point
Greetings Professor Pargas,
You state, “There is no such thing as a great manager who is also a terrible leader.”
This is true. However, there is a side issue I think worthy of discussion.
I once worked in an environment where the “perception” amongst colleagues that an intermediary boss was a great manager. It was evident to me that his main goal was to be friends with his select favorites, allowing them to do as little as they pleased, while those who were not amongst his chosen, were expected to pull the weight of those who did not contribute. Because he was “boss”, he could and did demand extra from me.
In my humble opinion, this man was neither a great manager or a leader, but the problem was:
1) he believed himself to be a great manager
2) the perception by his “friends” only compounded the problem
3) being appointed a leadership position did not make him a leader
I think that when the perception that someone is a great manager (when, in fact, they are not) is allowed to go unchecked, it creates more problems than it solves.
What are your thoughts on this?
Thank you kindly.
Wow, I now have great class material from the posts here. Bill is right on, and he has just underscored one of the problems with leadership: believing ourselves great leaders when in reality,we may not even understand what leadership means. One can also be appointed a (fill in the blanks) with a high level or middle level management title and have the authority to make decisions based on the title, but we cannot be appointed a “leader.” True transformational leadership isn’t bestowed with a title, but rather we put it to use with emotional intelligence, empathy, skill, and I would add: a check on one’s own ego.
Awesome post Prof. Fernando Pargas. I would like to add words of Vince Lombardi.
“Leaders aren’t born they are made. And they are made just like anything else, through hard work. And that’s the price we’ll have to pay to achieve that goal, or any goal.”
~ Vince Lombardi
I am really super-excited to grab the copy of your book.
Ankit: That is a great reminder (and Vince Lombardi put it well): it takes hard work and it takes time to develop true leadership. In many ways it’s always a journey, not a destination. The best leaders I have associated with never thought they had reached “leadership,” they were always looking for improvement.
Leadership that can be reckoned for effectiveness, irrespective of of the overtones or undertones of gender related issues has to possess the productive human inherent attributes or traits, and the socially learned/developed talents, characteristics, qualities, skills or/and experiences for sound situational adaptations and organizational practices. – ime ibanga
Greetings Professor Fernando Pargas,
Nice article. I had been a manager and leader when working in a Bank. My opinion also coincides with Mr. Butler that not all managers are good leaders because they are appointed as managers. It is a quality not found in all human beings. It is either gifted, inherited or developed by an individual. I have also found that women are more successful in various aspects of life but male dominates in a wider field.
What you think?
Thanks and kind regards
Hi Manoj, thank you for your thoughtful words. You said it well, and you also raise the question of why then are there more males in positions of leadership? I would like to emphasize that I believe many males are deservedly in positions of leadership, and I don’t suggest that only women can be good leaders. But unless you live in Norway, where the government actually mandated a 40% membership of women in boards, the percentage of men in leadership positions around the world is higher. There are a number of reasons: culture, the “glass ceiling” preventing women and minorities from reaching the top, that until recently more men went to college (that has been reversed)and that women often choose child rearing (at least for a period of their lives) over jobs that will take too much time away from home. Refusing leadership positions by choice (for example: a CEO spends long hours at work and away from home)is commendable and should be respected, in my opinion. What is dreadful is to bypass women who are qualified and talented and WANT to reach the top of the corporate ladder but are discriminated against simply because of their gender
Wonderful post Professor Fernando.. Thank you for sharing this.
I really liked the part where you talk about Managers and Leaders! I have seen very few managers who are also leaders!! And i agree women leaders are very good listeners.
Also you mentioned male leadership is dependent on Competition and Winning! But i read somewhere that without the competition and winning spirit you cannot bring the true potential in other people.. So along with healthy relationship dont we need healthy competition ?
Thank you Rajendra, I think you are right: “healthy competition” is often a motivator for success, particularly in organizations. But you smartly used the word “healthy” and therein lies the distinction. Sometimes we get into “guy” competition, which for us often comes from sport. Some friends who support different teams can go watch their teams play each other, and they will have a good time and the one who’s team lost will laugh it off. But as you know, in all countries fanaticism with sports leads to riots, fights and even death. This points to the difference between “healthy” competition and “unhealthy” competition. While I competed in business with my competitors, I had to ensure that my employees did the same but ethically and fairly. In reality, even though one may think that we are competing against our coworkers, in my experience the best companies include people who understand that their job is also to make their coworkers succeed and look good. It’s “abundance” mentality that says: “making you a winner not only does not make ME a loser, but it makes me a winner too.”
I read your post with interest. You have cogent insightful comments to support your assertions. I will find it useful to read your book and be able to delve more deeply into all you have to say. As the global economy grows closer it should be obvious the confrontational approaches of the past will no longer succeed. The integration of cultures through business activities requires consensus building to improve efficient utilization of scarce human resources to achieve the maximum benefit for the maximum number of consumers. The biases toward male dominate leadership as opposed to science based evaluations that determine the best managers/leaders regardless of gender must not stand. The tendency of males to bluster and compete is beneficial to the species when confronting a new hostile environment but not when dealing with our own species in a finite limited space such as this small planet occupied by billions of people. To build and grow a civil well ordered global society the best aspects of both genders must be used effectively.
Thank you Ron for adding tremendous value to the post with your wisdom.
Ron, you are right on. In a world where when Greece sneezes the rest of the world catches a cold, systems that instead of profiting from, create shared value instead, will be the only way for the world to survive. Thank you for clarifying that since that is often an eye opener to many young people.
Great post Prof.Fernando Pargas! Thank you so much for sharing this priceless article!
You have me mentioned above,”We men are particularly fond of the word; it was men who came to believe that simply by being male, we had a birth given right to it.”
Very true! The male leadership myth is not due to a biological disposition, but a cultural one? The question is not “do men and women lead differently,” but “do we teach men and women to lead differently?” We probably do.
So,I do believe,”Ending The Men Leadership” is a great contribution to the culture.
What are your thoughts?
Kumar: You bring up a great question, “do we teach men and women to lead differently”? I think that some leadership traits may be innate (women being better listeners) but others are taught and developed. The bigger question that you raised, however, is “should men and women be taught to lead differently?” Perhaps the right answer is: “we should!!!” I have been fortunate to work around the world with people from practically every country, and I learned early on that diversity was the quickest way to success. When I combined around a conference table someone from India, Taiwan, Germany, Chile, Spain, Singapore, the U.S., etc. the results were always better than coming from a group of people who looked just like me and had the same background. So if we recognize this and celebrate it, why not tap into those skills that each of us is better at, and develop it and reward it? Perhaps that will be how good management develops. I hope so.
Thanks for your thoughts.
I think that at the same top it doesn’t make a difference which gender it is. So I really look forward to read this book and check my thoughts.
Thank you Aistis, I agree with your thinking that it does not make a difference which gender one is if you are a great leader. As we look around we find great leadership from men and from women. The point I make is simply that we need to reconsider leadership as a male right, but instead as an acquired development, particularly when the evidence is there that women make for darn good leaders.
In the new society, leaders will no longer aim to “compete”, instead the strength behind our leadership will rely on making shifts that aims to “complete”. The role of leadership is similar to the roles of life. It’s more about collective creation and service to one another and less about “collective competition and winning “ over the other. The new economy behind leadership is our willingness, and productivity to lead personally, collectively, creatively and authentically. The new umbilical cord
of leadership depends on our social ability to nurture, communicate, support and connect with our natural roles and talents as human beings.
While it is vitally necessary and important, in our society for men to remain
The builders who, manage and secure both the framework and structure of the house, it is equally valuable to make note of the woman’s role that has always been to help shape, create and cultivate the house in order for that structure and framework to flourish as a home.
Now that is what I consider a great team. In this context, leadership is similar to life, while men manage and secure the house, a woman may ultimately, still be the one who naturally, creates, shapes and cultivates that house, (society) into becoming a great home. It is the authentic nature behind our human connection.
It is The ART of both Managers and Creators “collectively” working together.
Thank you Deborah! You have some great points in your comments. Thank you for sharing your thoughts.
Deborah, can I use your insight with my students? Your theory makes a lot of sense and it is what gives us hope that together we will create a better world. Women are well suited for caretaking and for nurturing. Not only are these the new currency for a better world, but the new requirement for healthy and successful work and family. I can create businesses but then get bored and need to move on. Others are great at caring and managing them. Both architects and caretakers are required. Thanks for such an inspiring comment.
@Prof Fernando Pargas! Feel free to share with your students! Let me know how the convo (conversation) goes! Thanks for the feed back! I love that you said : ” I can create businesses but then get bored and need to move on.”
By mere nature, Men love to build and woman love to nurture. Men help pro-create (penetrate, build and move on LOL). Woman are the incubators (nurture, grow and cultivate) and give life to the world (homes, families and ideas)
Deborah: That is so true, isn’t it? We are wired differently. Yesterday I attended a gathering with Swami Chandrasekharanand Saraswati of Rishikesh, India, a Kundalini Yoga Swami, and Swamiji explained how the female corpus callosum is different than man’s allowing her for greater use of both hemispheres of the brain at the same time. This may be one of the reasons why women are better at multitasking…
Phenomenal angel of looking at Leadership Professor Pargas and I must say there is so much inside from all the comments above especially @Deborah’s, I think one great factor that has contributed to the later form of leadership where both men or women alike in top positions always rush to claim applause when ever things go right and always put forth a thousand reasons why they failed when things go sore is the perception of looking at life as game
Winning and losing would best fit in games ,sports or war outcomes but because by nature the ego self is always trying to make us want to look better than the other .A new perception that would make us all not only look at outcomes of what we do but look at the values we restored or brake during the process of what we did and most importantly live an unbiased feedback on our activities leading to such outcome which will give room for improvement if the next person where to take over from us .
I am so glad you brought up the ego Derric, because often times that is precisely what takes away from true leadership (it’s a myth that great leaders have big egos). True leaders can observe themselves, their thoughts and their actions and adjust according to what is needed without taking things personally nor creating unnecessary drama.