The B Words – Four Things Successful Women in Leadership Aren’t Saying

Congratulations! You have risen to the ranks of some of the most successful women in business.

As much of an accomplishment that is, not everyone shares the same enthusiasm for women in leadership roles. Recent studies have discovered that many men feel threatened by their female superiors. While that isn’t so surprising, what is surprising is that women too are not the biggest fans of having a female boss.

In recent conversations I’ve had, Dragon Lady, Ice Princess, and even the Bitchy Boss were used to describe former female employers. Those I spoke with cited passive-aggressive put-downs, condescending remarks and reverse sexism as their biggest complaints when working for their female superiors. Even the most self-proclaimed feminist women I spoke with said that they would choose a male boss over a female boss because, although not perfect, they felt more valued by them. A Gallup poll conducted in 2014, Americans Still Prefer a Male Boss to a Female Boss, also suggests that one’s values and personal beliefs may factor into the equation.

Republican respondents: 42% preferred a male boss. 16% preferred a female boss.

Democrat respondents: 29% preferred a male boss. 25% preferred a female boss.

This study also showed that while both genders prefer a male boss, more women than men preferred a male superior —39 percent compared to 26 percent.

As the husband of a highly-successful female CEO, I would say that these cases aren’t always the norm. There are many highly-successful, highly-respected women in leadership roles. However, this does raise a few questions as to how some women in business approach their roles. After countless conversations with my wife as well as other females in positions of power, I’ve prepared a few examples of what they feel some of the most respected women in leadership aren’t saying.

  1. “Look at me, I’m a power poser.”
    Employees can sense the difference between a true leader and a boss who is simply posturing from a mile away. Be true to your mission and it will show.
  2. “I make all the decisions. I don’t need your input.”
    As a successful woman in leadership, you’ve obviously made some great decisions.Still, you hired your employees to do a job; you’d hope that they would have the skills needed to do it successfully. This includes having some very good ideas or viewpoints that you may not have considered.
  3. “We’re a big, happy family.” or “I rule with an iron fist.”
    Finding a successful leadership style can be tricky. While being a nurturing boss has its benefits, such as making employees feel valued and that they have a true stake in the company, this type of management style can also blow up in your face. Blurring the lines between friend and boss can open you up to being taken advantage of or being looked at as a cold-hearted fraud when you have to fire an employee. In contrast, the iron-fist style of management commands rather than earns respect. It employs the hands and minds of its employees vs. their hearts. Employees are rarely motivated to support this type of leader – perhaps a happy medium?
  4. “I don’t need anyone!”
    Strong women in business solicit the advice of mentors and other trusted advisors. They do not presume to know it all. This humble awareness often leads them to learn more about their leadership style than most.

About the author: Andreas Wilderer is a husband, father, life coach, speaker, and author of the book, Lean On, a guide for successful women and their supportive partners.

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