The Feminine Expression of Honest Emotions is the Future of Leadership

john-gerzema

“We live in a world that is increasingly social, interdependent and transparent, and in this world feminine values are ascendant because the most innovative people among us are breaking from traditional structures to be more flexible, more nurturing, and more collaborative.” 

By Rachel Lehmann-Haupt (Editor, Women 2.0)

I thought the call to be more emotional honest at work was one of the strongest messages of Sheryl Sandberg’s Lean In. “Authentic communication is not always easy, but it is the basis for successful relationships at home and real effectiveness at work,” she writes. The word “emotional” when attached to a woman usually has bad connotations, as in “She is too emotional!” or “Don’t make emotional decisions.” And to some extent, this is true: staying rational in business is important. But business and work are meant to support your life, so I think the fact that Sandberg argues it’s better to be emotional honest at work is vital to your quality of life.

Expressing emotion is a very feminine trait, and I think traditionally women have hidden their emotions because they’ve bought into an “act like a man” mentality in business. Many women believe this is what it takes to be successful. A reader of my last post about women’s success and their popularity pointed me to this TEDxKC Talk by researcher John Gerzema. Gerzema, the author of The Athena Doctrine: How Women (And Men Who Think Like Them) will Rule the Future, offers the hard statistics to support that feminine traits like emotional honesty are driving the future of leadership.

Gerzema spent two years surveying 64,000 people in thirteen different countries – this included favelas in Brazil, start-ups in Stockholm, CEOs in Shanghai, and world political leaders in Jerusalem and Brussels. He and his co-author Michael D Antonio’s explored essentially what makes people happy. They discovered that most people have a huge sense of anxiety about the future of their children and the majority of these people feel this way because they are dissatisfied with the conduct of men. This includes seventy-nine percent of people in Japan and South Korea, and two thirds of the people of the United States, Indonesia, and Mexico. They found the strongest data about dissatisfaction with masculine traits are among millennials of which two-thirds think that the world would be a better place if men thought more like women.

“There’s a growing shift in the values between masculinity and femininity in the 21st Century,” he says. “We live in a world that is increasingly social, interdependent and transparent, and in this world feminine values are ascendant because the most innovative people among us are breaking from traditional structures to be more flexible, more nurturing and more collaborative.

His study concluded that the essence of a modern leader is essentially feminine. These traits include consensus building, long term planning, collaboration, patience, and yes, “a leader who expresses their feelings and emotions more openly and honestly.” So it seems that Sandberg’s strategy will not only be better in terms of having a better quality of work-life balance, but it could lead to more effective leadership.

 

Women 2.0 readers: How emotionally honest are you at work?

Rachel Lehmann-Haupt is an editor at Women 2.0 and author and journalist interested in gender politics, working motherhood and the influence of science and technology on culture. Her work has appeared in The New York Times, the Daily Beast, New York, Vogue, Self, Outside, Wired, and MSN Money. She is the author of In Her Own Sweet Time: Unexpected Adventures in Finding Love, Commitment and Motherhood (Basic Books, 2009). Follow her on Twitter at @rlehmannhaupt.

Photo credit: Miriam Berkley