Who remembers the "Oprah for President" posters leading up to the 2008 election? Adoring fans created songs, signs and even websites, hoping that the polarizing talk show goddess would join the political realm. Although most of the materials were simply lighthearted gestures of admiration, their subtext speaks volumes about the leadership needs in the new age.
Throughout our history, leaders have emerged from three male-dominated domains: politics, economics and the military, causing theorists to speculate that leaders must possess masculine traits to be effective. But our world has changed. We're now connected in ways our historical brothers never thought possible. A few taps at a keyboard enables you to communicate with Norway as easily as your neighbor, and this type of cultural evolution is changing the way we view leadership styles from the boardroom to the bedroom.
As we continue to connect and reshape our world with technology, the necessity for a new type of leader has emerged. We need someone who will intellectually stimulate us, inspire us and encourage participation. We need someone to provide us with a system of expectations and reward. We need a collaborator, a cooperator and a mentor.
The studies are clear: we need a woman.
Jean Lipman-Blumen introduced the idea of this type of connected leader in her 1992 paper, "Connective Leadership: Female Leadership Styles in the 21st Century Workplace."
"To address the complex demands of the twenty-first century workplace," she writes, "organizational and political leadership will need to reflect certain behaviors to which females traditionally have been socialized."
The connective leadership ideal that Lipman-Blumen proposes is based on the concept of shared responsibility, where the leader "takes unthreatened pride in the accomplishments of colleagues and protégés, and experiences success without the compulsion to outdo others."
This is in stark contrast to leadership models throughout history, where the top-down, masculine-led format bred competitiveness, control, aggression and individualism.
As we continue to move forward in this new millennium, we must acknowledge that this paradigm is no longer effective.
With today's extreme technological advances, diverse workforce and crumbling geographical boundaries, McKinsey & Company's 2008 study Women Matter 2 suggests that many contemporary organizations lack leaders with the traits critical to effectively manage a workforce in the global economy.
Theorists suggest the next phase of leadership will resemble a complicated web woven from the actions and ideas of the group, rather than traditional hierarchies. According to a study conducted by Alice H. Eagly and Linda L. Carli, the leader in this new model will take on the role of teacher and coach rather than commander.
Eagly and Carli agree with their contemporaries: these emerging leadership models are more compatible with feminine characteristics. Females have been socialized to empower others, listen and communicate effectively, and create a sense of community.
Society's bias over women in leadership roles continues to fade, but when the leadership debate transitions from women's professional lives to their personal lives, our culture becomes less accepting.
Mainstream society views women who take on the leadership role in their romantic relationship as bossy and controlling, with a fondness for physical, emotional and sexual dominance.
Many still view female-led relationships as counter to the Christian-based culture that our nation has adopted, without taking into consideration the leadership skills that women provide.
Women can manage and lead a relationship just as effectively as they can a company. Who wouldn't want a partner who is empowering, supportive, and collaborative, with the courage to command and the commonsense to trust?
The 5 Food Groups In depth
|Women were asked|
|Who is better at communication?|
94% of women polled believe they are equal to or better at communication then men. There is some evidence that is true. The number of women in marketing communication, human resources, and corporate communication should be evidence of that.
|Women were asked|
|Who is better at leadership?|
Women also believe they are better leaders voting 68% of the time to say that loud and clear. Women believe in themselves and their ability to communicate and lead effectively..
|Cross Reference - Additional Resources|