Yin and Yang – Understanding the Limits of Traditional Gender Roles in Business

November 24, 2015 | By | Add a Comment

It’s human nature to generalize. We like to reinforce our belief systems by assigning identities and values to things, places, and people. If nothing else, it saves time and cognitive energy, since we do not have to evaluate every experience as if we’ve never encountered it before. This unconscious thinking is effective when you’re jogging down a trail that ends at a cliff; in such a circumstance, you don’t have to think too much about when you should stop running.

On the other hand, when you’re considering who to promote or put in a key role, if you unconsciously discount a female candidate because of a set of beliefs like “women are too soft, emotional, catty, out-numbered or whatever, to lead”, you’ve done yourself and your organization a disservice.

My previous post, Why Women Are Better Leaders, described how women have a natural (brain-based) leg up on men when it comes to key leadership characteristics, with empathy, creativity, and relationship-building topping the list. Given what women bring to the table, if at all possible, I would not have a senior team that was less than 50% female. Yet the issue of bringing females into your leadership goes beyond gender. I want to bring the qualities a woman can bring into my team regardless of the team gender mix.

Why businessmen need to be more like businesswomen

It’s easy to confuse male and female with masculine and feminine. Masculine and feminine qualities live inside every male and female. The Chinese principles of Yin and Yang: the fluid/relational/female principle in nature versus the stationary/independent/male principle in nature. As human beings evolve, each gender of the species can possess more of the other’s qualities. (Interestingly, very recent generations are blazing a path to an increased appreciation of feminine skills and attributes among business leaders, which is largely being shaped by Gen X and Millennials reaching the workforce.)

For male leaders, it’s no longer effective to think in terms of masculine OR feminine – we need to incorporate both within ourselves. Men can access some of the same feminine-thinking parts of the brain as men women can. For some men, this require a great deal of work. The neurological retraining starts with emphasizing things like communication, empathy, positivity, relationships, and emotional intelligence. The key is to think of these attributes as more than mere tools, but rather as values that must be promoted within your organization if you wish to promote connection, growth, engagement, and efficiency.

Do you access, or even embrace, your “feminine side”? Can you feel yourself resistant to change? The feminine skills that you suppress or avoid are the very things that bring life and effectiveness into an organization, and lead to a longer, happier life.

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About the Author (Author Profile)

Executive coach, top team facilitator, author and speaker. I work with individual leaders and their teams to help navigate personal and professional transitions and to increase leadership capacity and improve communication and relationship skills. I founded my coaching firm in 2001 following 12 years asa CEO. Check out more on me and my coaching process in my book "The Business of Wanting More: Why Some Executives Move from Success to Fulfillment and Others Don't"

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