The Feminine Dimension: Crucial For Organizational Success

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Adding the feminine dimension to business, and how it is crucial for organizational success.

South Africa, as elsewhere in the world, is characterized by a paternal society where the male is dominant in both the business world and society at large.  This is still the case in spite of brave efforts by the government of the day to bring about gender equality.  Academics such as Prof Joan Hambidge at UCT, Prof Amanda Gouws at the University of Stellenbosch and Dr Babita Mathur-Helm at the University of Stellenbosch Business School (USB), have also been at the forefront of this drive.  I would like to contend that the gender debate goes far beyond just the sex of the person involved (as Prof Hambidge indeed pointed out in an article in a local newspaper a while ago), and that it makes sound business sense to tap onto the feminine dimension of society. 

Freud and Jung have stated that the human psyche has both a conscious and unconscious dimension.  In addition, the human psyche also has a feminine and masculine aspect to it.  Jung refers to the feminine in the male as the anima, while the masculine in the female is referred to as the animus.  Truida Heyman, well known South African author on this area, makes the extremely important point that the human needs to be in touch with both the masculine and feminine aspects of his/her psyche.   

Recent research by amongst others, Daniel Goleman and Reuven BarOn, have indicated that there is, in addition to the cognitive intelligence (IQ) we have been emphasizing, an additional intelligence, i.e. emotional intelligence (EQ).  According to Goleman, EQ is far more important than IQ as a differentiating factor in executive performance.  Goleman states that EQ explains between 75% and 95% of the differences in performance.  IQ is, at best, seen to be an important entry requirement. 

In South Africa, you find the phenomenon that males tend to neglect the feminine aspect of their psyche.  This is probably due to the history of the country where there was a lot of interracial strife.  In school white boys were in the cadets and thereafter they had to undergo national service.  Sports with a manly orientation were highly regarded.  The end result of this is that we have a society in which the emotional intelligence of the average male is quite low, for the simple reason that survival required him to be strongly cognitive and less emotional.  One of the manifestations of this is the high incidence of violence against women and children.  In 2003, a report stated that 1 in 6 women in Gauteng are killed by their partners! 

The above does not mean that there has been a conspiracy by men to suppress women since time immemorial.  Ken Wilber makes the point in his "A brief history of everything" that it would be ludicrous to think that men who have not been able to keep together a civilization for more than a few hundred years, would have been able to suppress women since the beginning of time.  The conspiracy view therefore places too high a regard on men's abilities and does not do justice to the competencies of women. 

Linked to the search for emotionally intelligent managers, it is well known that leadership has transactional and transformational attributes.  The transactional attributes refer to aspects such as being decisive, assertive, wanted to be in control, taking command.  These aspects are driven by the male hormone, testosterone, which according to Wilber has the objective to either kill or reproduce.  The transformational attributes refer to such aspects as team building, seeking consensus, taking a longer term view.  The female equivalent to testosterone is oxytocin, which has been described as the "relationship drug"; it induces incredibly strong feelings of attachment, relationship, nurturing, holding, touching (Wilber, 2000: 4).  It is important that leaders have access to both types of attributes.  The emphasis of the one at the cost of the other leaves the individual at a loss, and usually leads to dysfunctional individuals and dysfunctional management teams.  

As for the performance of women in managerial positions, the Hay Group found that outstanding women executives were twice as likely to use feminine styles as were the men.  These women also frequently used masculine leadership styles (directive, authoritative, and pacesetting).  The outstanding women executives created stronger climates for the teams or business units they led than the successful men and less successful women.  Interestingly enough, the Hay Group found that the average or typical women executives relied predominantly on masculine leadership styles and created the weakest climates of all three groups.  The question that goes begging is why are the women in the latter group relying predominantly on masculine styles when they have the ability to tap into a broader reservoir of styles?  Is it because masculine and feminine styles are not the prerogative of the sex they can represent, or is it because the current business environment still does not by and large allow women to utilize feminine characteristics? 

Research by authors such as Sandra Bem have shown that the transactional attributes are typically aligned with the masculine dimension, while the transformational attributes are aligned with the feminine dimension.  Being out of touch with your feminine self, irrespective of your sex, therefore decreases your ability to be a highly productive self-actualizing transformational leader! 

If one looks at the above research, it shows that men are not necessarily better leaders than women, but that for women to be successful, they need to tap into the very femininity they so frequently deny in order to belong to the boys' club.  However, the research also shows that the best leader has a balance between his/her feminine characteristics and knows what to utilize when and with whom.  For South African men, is also is a wake up call to get in touch with their feminine side and develop the necessary emotional intelligence and spirituality to do just that!  This would require them to go back to their very own centre and really get to grips with whom they really are.  Women also need to know that they must stop trying to be men and capitalize on their own unique strengths.

 


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