By Rebecca Shambaugh, President and CEO, Shambaugh Leadership
Now I’m sure you’re all aware of the numerous research studies that have been conducted that show organizations with a greater number of women in senior executive positions are more profitable, have greater market share, and are better able to compete and grow. However it still doesn’t make sense with ongoing statistics that indicate women are still under represented at the leadership table – women CEOs are still today only 4.2% of the Fortune 500 companies.
The fact that organizations are more successful with more women at the top is not because women are better than men, it’s because women are bringing something fundamentally different to the table and allowing business to operate more holistically. Of course men and women can share ideas and have the same likes and can do many of the same things; however, we fundamentally approach work and life from a different place. We pay attention to different things at our core and neither way is right or wrong, but each is only half of the equation and we need both halves to thrive in today’s market place. This links directly back to what I call Integrated Leadership which calls for having and tapping on the broader spectrum of gender intelligence.
The consequence of the failure to balance our leadership teams is that our organizations and institutions are surviving but they’re not thriving. Think about it, how many businesses would survive in the long term if they were missing half of their sales forecast, or half of their manufacturing deliverables or half of what’s been promised to investors.
What Gender Intelligence Has To Do With Integrated Leadership
When I created this model on Integrated Leadership it just wasn’t an idea I had one day. This model supports the brain science. Brain research shows specific ways male and female brains are inherently different. The unique structure of each gender’s brain determines how that gender thinks, what they value, and how they communicate. Studies indicate that men and women produce the same intellectual performance, but their brains just do it differently.
Brain research essentially shows that men tend to primarily use the left hemisphere of the brain, while women tend to use both the left and right hemispheres. Since a man’s brain functions are dominant in the left hemisphere, he is more likely to rely on logic-based thinking and fact-based approaches and have a more detailed orientation. Women, who use both hemispheres, are more likely to have a broader perspective and big-picture orientation, to tap into their intuition and to more easily pick up on sensory cues (such as facial cues). Certainly, both men and women can and do possess the traits of both genders, but because of their brain structure, each gender is naturally geared toward certain tendencies.
Here are some other differences between the male and female brain that you may not have known:
- Emotions. Women’s brains tend to have more emotional activity that is going on in the middle of the brain (the limbic system) and men have more rational activity going on in the top of the brain (the cerebral cortex).
- Compartmentalizing versus Multi-Tasking. Men tend to compartmentalize more brain activity and focus on one task, whereas women more naturally multi-task.
- Attention to Detail. Women tend to take in more information through their five senses than men do and store more of that information in the brain for other uses.
- Logic versus Language. Men tend to have better logic skills and women tend to have better language skills.
These differences between the male and female brain explains the considerable differences in how men and women lead, communicate, problem solve, make decisions and work together. In SHAMBAUGH’s Women in Leadership and Learning Program we explore women strengths such as creativity, patience, perseverance, intuition, empathy, social/relationship intelligence, a holistic view, a keen sense of observation, the ability to see connections among people and situations, and a predisposition toward collaboration and inclusion. While these are some of the natural strengths of women they are also valued in the market place. This is not to discount men’s natural strengths such as being results – goal focused, fact – logic based thinking, and a competitive mindset. What we have found in working with gender balanced leadership and executive teams they are more innovative, productive and yield greater bottom line results. By knowing and leveraging the strengths of both men and women they are better able to solve complex problems, make better-informed decisions, and produce better outcomes.
While we may have unique gender differences on our team sometimes we are not aware of those differences or we don’t value them, which can turn into what I refer to as blind spots. These blind spots are not right or wrong, however it’s important that in the context of Integrated Leadership that men and women play an equal role in understanding as well as an equal role in strengthening their own gender intelligence – which means knowing, valuing, and capitalizing on those differences. That’s the magic equation and when we do that is when your organizations, team, and communities will thrive.
For example, attaining great customer loyalty requires us to research trends around customer buying patterns, analyze market data, and determine competitive pricing (typically male traits), while also building meaningful relationships, using emotional intelligence to develop trust with clients and demonstrate the mutual benefits of doing business together (typically female traits). Together, these male and female traits create a whole-brain approach that produces results better than either could alone.
In today’s complex market place and business environment we can’t afford to operate with only half a brain – we need to tap on the full spectrum of human intelligence. So as leaders in your organizations, teams and communities I will leave you with few things to consider:
- Does your leadership team have a good balance of both men and women?
- Do you have a good understanding of the inherent differences between the male and female brain and how these differences play out in terms of styles and behaviors?
- Does your team include a wide enough spectrum of leadership traits, thinking, and behaviors and are they able to capitalize on the broader spectrum of gender intelligence most pressing issues?
- Are you aware of how to adapt your communications style in the context of gender factors?
I firmly believe that successful organizations, now and in the future, will be led by fully engaged, balanced teams of men and women working together synergistically to produce extraordinary results. It’s time for a leadership model that can effectively solve our national and global issues – an Integrated Leadership model that leverages the best of men and women.
Make sure your organization knows how to leverage gender intelligence for success now and in the future. Don’t miss my latest book, Make Room for Her: Why Companies Need an Integrated Leadership Model to Achieve Extraordinary Results (McGraw-Hill). Available wherever books are sold.
Learn more about SHAMBAUGH’s Integrated Leadership Program, Becky’s Keynote Offerings, Coaching and their signature Women In Leadership and Learning Program (WILL) by visiting www.shambaughleadership.com.