Prof. Pierre Casse and Research Assistant Elnura Irmatova
“I believe in collective intelligence.”
CEO of the Solvay Multinational Corporation
main purpose of this paper is not to examine the need to have more women in
leadership positions (Public and private sectors) because the answer is obvious.
is it so obvious? Many people (men and women) do not believe that it is an
issue. Or at least not so important or critical. Many business people say that
what counts is not the gender of the person but his or her ability to perform
and contribute. Some public leaders are supportive of the gender equality scheme
in all organizations but its implementation is slow at best. We must also
acknowledge that many women perceive that approach as not right. They feel that
women should get into leadership not because they are women but because they
are the best for the job! No special treatment…please!
not get confused and mistaken around that question of “women in Leadership”.
believe that the main idea is to identify and analyze some of the major
differences between men and women concerning their ways of thinking, feeling,
are not addressing the question of who is better and why should we have more
women in key leadership positions but focusing on who is bringing what to
the leadership table.
key question we must address is: What kind of leadership synergy can be
produced by the combination of masculine and feminine ways to look at people in
teams, organizations, businesses, and in public work (“Collective-men and
women- intelligence” at work)?
statements are based on our experiences in the working world but also the
organization and implementation of a series of seminars for only women at the
Kellogg School of Management (Seminars on “Women in Leadership” -North-western
is energy. Feel the power that comes from focusing on what excites you.”
first interrogation is about the so-called major differences between men and
women in leadership. Do they exist and if so, are they really important?
challenge the male and female readers to approve or disapprove of our hereunder
observations and comments on the topic!
seems that many female leaders perceive their position within the organization
- Most women make a clear
distinction between the value of their personal/family and professional lives
while men still perceive work (and career) as a top priority. Women will
say that they are not ready to pay a taxing price to just get promoted and
break the very famous ceiling glass.
women (still) believe that good performance is the key requirement for
being noticed and promoted in most organizations. They are not ready to
play the “power game” that many men enjoy and use to be visible and go up
the ladder in their organizations.
- Women (overall) are
more lucid and honest when assessing their ability to perform a new
challenging job. Asked if they could take up a very difficult job, many
women will react by saying “Let me think about it. I’ll be back to you as
soon as possible”. Men are much more straightforward and are not afraid of
bluffing. They will say right away “Of course, I can do it”. So, it seems that many women are investing their
passion in something they consider more valuable than work power.
is quite clear that we also need to design and run some research projects on
the following questions: Does the new world we are getting into require the
talents that women possess more than the men in leadership roles? We challenge
the readers to identify in the list hereafter what belongs to the male and the
seems that the new world does require: Speed in thinking-acting-Creativity
(imagination, invention, and innovation)-Resilience-Ethics-Clear Communication-Trusting,
and empowering others-Flair…
is not that clear and obvious. Is it?
pursuit of power is overwhelming and universally a male trait. To rise in the
hierarchy, men are much more prepared than women to make sacrifices of their
own time, pleasure, relocations health, safety, or emotions.”
women behave differently than men when they are placed in senior leadership
positions? We will answer that question in two parts:
Yes, some women have tried to lead differently but
at a very high price. They did not get much support from the men and (paradoxically) from the women around. For instance, women have a natural
tendency (in the western part of the world) to be more intuitive, care better
about people, sensitive to the cost of change, imaginative, cautious… It seems
that most of them are getting negative resistance from the male leaders who
perceive that leadership approach as soft and who advocate a much tougher
leadership style (business is business. Right?).
No, because the pressure from the male-dominated
value system of the organization is such that they do not have a choice if they
want to survive. As a consequence, many women perceive the situation in such a way that they
believe they have no choice if they want to survive. The alternative appears
very simple: Either they fight and it can be very taxing and risky or they just
refrain from challenging the leadership around at the risk of losing their
self-esteem. It is also fair to say that women do not network the same way as
men do. For some reason, women are reluctant to show their solidarity
with other women. The men's motto “you scratch my back this time and I will
scratch yours next time” is less practiced among many women
are other comments made by women regarding their lack of ambitions in the male-dominated
Yes, a job means money,
and much more important it guarantees a minimum of freedom.
Yes, I would like to be
promoted but when I see the pressure that comes with it, I am not sure that I
am ready for it.
Yes, making my own
decisions at work would be great. The problem is that many people are just
watching me and hoping that I will -soon- make a faux pas.
Lets’ (in all fairness) also mention that the 3 statements above also refer to
the males of age 20 – 45 these days. The young generation is not so eager to
follow their fathers' steps and be as dedicated to working as they were (Z generation
syndrome?). Men between 30-45 are fully impacted by the values of comfort and
fun (easy does it). Additionally, since family values are more and more “liberalized”,
many men in these age frames are raised by single mothers, which makes an
imprint on their behaviors becoming more women alike. Besides upraising, it
also refers to education in schools where the majority of teachers nowadays are
women and men there are not present there much. This results in raising men
with a less masculine and action-oriented approach to life and more feminine
behaviors and traits (Be patient, think twice, act slowly and surely…).
A critical question
have often been asked why I am so fond of playing male parts. As a matter of
fact, it is not male parts, but male brains that I prefer”
scientists are claiming that the issue is not about men and women but male and
female brains deciphering the world differently and, in many cases,
complementarily. Some claim that it is all related to the chemicals of the body
including and especially the human hormones!
other words, you can be a man and have a feminine way to look at things i.e.
very sensitive, intuitive, caring, cautious, empathetic, multitask,
improvisation….or be a woman with a masculine orientation i.e. action-oriented,
risk-taking, aggressive, factual, analytical, assertiveness, self-confidence,
people do not have a clue about the kind of major brain orientations they have.
Is it bad? Should we promote that kind of awareness in the organizational
is perhaps more important to ask: Is this type of approach (“Stereotyping”)
right and healthy? Aren’t we more complex than we like to believe?
Three (tentative) remarks to conclude
it is men or women in leadership, it is not the main challenge! It is more
that men and women have different leadership aptitudes and skills that are
available to leaders.
on what are the best ways i.e. masculine or feminine to meet the
requirements of various situations.
- Creating the synergy between
the two key biological and cultural orientations.
A quote to conclude
“Ask yourself every day: Did I help
another woman today.”
asked prof. Danica Purg (President of IEDC-Bled School of Management,
Slovenia) and Mr. Jean Noël Lequeue (Managing Director, jnl S.A.,
Luxembourg) to share their views on the points presented in the article.
Prof. Danica Purg agrees
that “we need to see more women in leading positions. The first and most
relevant is the issue of human rights; only after recognizing this, the issue
of capabilities and motivation becomes relevant. I agree also with the
suggestion that more feminine leadership is needed in a situation where we move
to a new business model, from competition (“business is war”) to cooperation
(“business is partnerships”). I agree with the remark that it would be
necessary to create a synergy between the two key biological and cultural
orientations. We particularly need both sides of the brain in leadership,
regardless of which side is the most important in certain situations”.
Prof. Purg explained
that she disagrees with “any suggestion that there are only two clearly
differentiated kinds of brains. Concerning other issues such as race or sexual
orientation, this leads to dangerous stereotypes and it is not shaped in
accordance with reality. I appreciate that this article suggests that also
concerning this issue we have to be critical of such a “black and white”
approach. However, I am disappointed that many related issues are still only
As a final comment,
prof. Purg pointed out that it could be interesting to uncover the “human
rights point. The point is that every job or position has to be open to
everybody, independent of gender. This is a fundamental ethical issue. All
other demands as mindset and skills for getting a leadership position are
secondary to this main principle”.
Mr. Jean Noël Lequeue replied:
“My experience in female leadership is quite
long. The first boss in my career was a woman and later, when I joined the
management board, I hired mostly women as direct collaborators. I like to work
with women... and men.
What I definitively do not
like are quotas in general and in particular those regarding the promotion of women. A quota can lead
to “force” a woman to assume an unwanted position and the result for the
company can be very bad indeed. Anyway, it is better to
promote the best candidate (female or male) regardless of gender discourse”.
Professor Pierre Casse and Research Assistant Elnura Irmatova, IEDC-Bled School of Management
Previously published: The Slovenia Times