Ladies, are you a leader in a male dominated industry? Have you ever struggled with getting men to respect your leadership? Are you newly promoted and wondering how to gain trust and respect with the men in your organization? Would you like to be able to identify the men who will support you and work with you vs. the ones who will not? I'll be your inside spy and share some secrets with you to help you increase your effectiveness. These secrets will help you influence the men in your organization and minimize your exposure to the men who are difficult to work with and influence.
You may be asking yourself, what is a guy going to teach me about being a woman who has to lead men? The answer is nothing. I am not going to pretend I know what it's like to be a woman and the challenges you all face from having to lead us men. What I intend to share with you is a man's perspective of your leadership to help you identify barriers and break them down. It is my intent to help you reduce any uncertainties and increase your effectiveness. I will also leave you with questions you should ask yourself that will help you find solutions to the challenges you face in the future.
In a series of blog posts, I am going to share with you the Top Secrets I think women should know when it comes to leading men.
I will start in this post with: Identifying the male chauvinist in your group, and how you should approach them.
Yes, I said chauvinist. I know it may not be the most P.C. word to use, but I'll call it what it is. Let's be honest, they still exist. They just know that they are not as accepted as they once were. Only in extremely male populated environments is it openly advertised. But, in the business world, if they are smart, male chauvinists hide in the shadows. They operate in the forms of passive resistance, malicious compliance, and alliance building to try to isolate you. You know these men. They are there. They are the worst to try to work with for women. The reason I say identify the male chauvinists is to help you begin working on influencing them or moving them out of your group or organization. There are always different levels of chauvinists to deal with, some may be not as far gone and they can be reeled in, but the ones who cannot, you should attempt to move them out of your group, if you can.
Let's start with trying to move them out of your team:
One of the keys to effective leadership is picking the people around you. The greatest leaders are successful at identifying the people to surround themselves with. They choose the people who compliment their strengths and cover their weaknesses. Where it gets tough is identifying that a man with great talent, and even a great reputation with the organization may not be a fit for your leadership. Some women want to prove that they can work with a man like this. You may feel that results will be tougher without a talented individual on your team, and that it would be looked poorly upon if you requested that they not be on your team. Talent is a great thing to have, but if it is without character, you're at a greater deficit than you would be without that talent.
It is not as easy as it sounds, I know. Not all organizations are flexible enough to give you the ability to pick and choose your team. Don't be afraid to ask for it, though. Even as a guy, I requested to pick my team at a company I once worked for. It took a while before I was given the opportunity, but when I did, my team was awesome! We worked well together, and the client loved our results.
Being a great leader does not mean you are able to effectively influence everyone you come into contact with. There are those who will just click with you, and there will be those who you will never work well with (Unfortunately, this is a leadership failure at a higher, organizational level, but I'll save that for another time).
If you can't move them, influence them:
If you have no choice, and you have to work with a chauvinist, I recommend that you build trust and rapport with that individual, especially if they have influence over others on your team. John Maxwell, in his book "21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership" talks about the Law of Influence. He tells a story about when he first became a lead pastor at one of his churches. There was a gentleman who had the influence over how the congregation voted at the church meetings. John was the pastor and in charge of the congregation, but he quickly realized that he did not possess the influence. John would visit this gentleman on his farm, work with him on the farm, talk with him regarding issues facing the church, and ask for his support on solutions for the church. One time the front door needed painted on the church. Instead of John raising the issue at the meeting, he asked if this gentleman would bring the issue up at the next meeting. He did and the church voted unanimously to paint the door. John built trust and rapport with the person who had the most influence and generated the results he needed through the person who had the influence.
You may have to build trust and rapport and understand who has influence vs. who is responsible. Maxwell says "Leadership is Influence." And influence is the path to accomplishing your objectives with a group of people. What leaders must realize, women or men, is that you may not possess the influence, but you can still capitalize off the person who does. You will be responsible, but you may not have all the influence. Use the chauvinist's ego to your advantage. If they have influence, assert your influence through theirs. There may even be someone on the team who has influence over that person. You can even work your influence through that individual(s). After all, it's about influencing your team to be able to get the job done vs. proving who is in charge.
If you have to tell people you are in charge, you have to ask yourself if you're really in charge to begin with. You never want to make it a power struggle. You may actually win the power struggle, but you may very well lose your team and your chance at achieving optimal influence, therefore, lose any chance at accomplishing the mission.
It's critical to lead people who work well together. After all, the ability to work together is what produces desired results. For women, I imagine, you feel a level of pressure to produce results, especially in your first opportunity to lead. If you have the flexibility to pick your team, do so. Talent and expertise are great factors, but if they come in the form of male chauvinists, you have a much tougher job than just focusing on the mission. If choosing is not an option, take the time to recognize where the influence resides within your group or team. Influence is your tool, ladies, use it to your advantage. You may not possess the tool in hand, but you can influence the person who does.
I hope this post will add value to your leadership, and if anything, gives you something to think about when approaching the challenge of leading some of the difficult men in your organization. Look for future posts where I will share more secrets on how women can lead men in the work place.
Agoge Leadership Development, LLC
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