Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Leadership and Gender

The model, "A Vision of Leadership" (now Leadership for Collaboration and Innovation) incorporates the assumptions that we are all inherently leaders and followers both externally with respect to others and internally within ourselves. Additionally the model assumes that we are all driven to innovate and implement, or create and do. At different times these values or imperatives to lead, follow, innovate and implement, have different powers in our lives proportionate to our needs, habits and context. "A Vision of Leadership," however, contains no consciously introduced gender component.

Earlier, in Interactive Leadership, I touched on gender for the first time. The proposition was that transactional and interactive leadership were masculine and feminine leadership styles. I have just read the traditional story "The Handless Maiden," as told by psychologist Robert Johnson. I was reminded that Jungians contend it essential to our wellbeing that a man has a complementary female aspect (anima) and a woman has a complementary male aspect (animus). The extent to which these aspects of our psyches are active or inactive is a significant determinant of our behavior.

With this perspective, I took a look at the model and found that each of the following pairings of values (corners) and outcomes (faces) can be considered a pairing of complementary masculine and feminine attributes. Remember now, as in the opening paragraph, A Vision of Leadership is an integral perspective and no part stands on its own or acts independently, i.e. you cannot effectively appreciate leading without appreciating following. With that in mind the complementary aspects can be classified: (if you go to the model, use the 'Reverse' link to toggle between value/corner and outcome/face)

These ideas are tested by looking at the practices responding and structuring.

Responding is driven by the 'feminine' imperatives to follow and innovate and supports the 'feminine' outcomes of contribution and collaboration.

Structuring is driven by the 'masculine' imperatives to lead and implement and supports the 'masculine' outcomes of visualization and organization. (If you go to the model, you can toggle between responding and structuring using the Reverse link.)

In the Jungian context, structuring is the leadership practice of a man or the animus in a woman and responding is the practice of a woman and the anima in a man. Additionally, structuring as a masculine practice is consistent with ideas earlier expressed around transactional leadership and responding as a feminine practice is consistent with interactive leadership. Where this leads-follows is that, of transactional and interactive leadership, neither is inherently superior. Leadership comprises some combination of both, fluctuating according to needs, habits and context. There are also some clues here about the importance of acknowledging/activating the opposite gender aspect in each of us.

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