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Sarah Palin and Female Leaders -- The Pointless Magnification of Glass Ceilings

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Sarah Palin made a big splash during the Republican National Convention (RNC) on September 3, 2008 as she tore into her Democratic adversaries, Senator's Barack Obama and Joseph Biden. Since that night, she has undergone a different, albeit expected, level of scrutiny; one that has nothing to do with her credentials (good or bad). Instead, she is being judged in pointless ways simply because she is a woman. For if she was a man, her comments would have passed through a different set of filters with more emphasis on the substantive portions of her speech. Governor Palin, consistent with other female executives, must contend with many pointless assessments of their capabilities, simply because they are women. So what does this all mean and why would a "Nice" Guy write about it?

First and for the record, this post has nothing to do with my political position. Rather, it has everything to do with the added scrutiny women must endure as managers, executives and leaders. After just completing my first book, "Nice Guys Can Get The Corner Office - Eight Strategies for Winning in Business Without Being a Jerk", it is my belief, as well as my co-authors, that both men and women struggle with many of the same nice guy syndrome issues. Our goal in the book is to teach these people how to be "Effectively Nice" and in this capacity, virtually all advice is gender neutral.

Yet, our authoring team agreed that women have an additional and distinct set of issues in business and politics. For women, if they are perceived as too aggressive, they are labeled as the "bitch" or in Governor Palin's case, the "Bulldog." Alternatively, if they are too supportive, they are considered overly nurturing. Consequently, finding a balance between assertiveness and niceness is the challenge. The scrutiny being experienced by Governor Palin or even Senator Hillary Clinton after her infamous teary moment in Portsmouth New Hampshire only adds to that challenge. This often places emphasis on the wrong measures for success. In support of this thinking, here are two Nice Guy thoughts to consider:

1. Cast the Female Filter Aside - It is dated and unnecessary to prefix any woman's comments with "if a man had said". Each time this is said or thought, it sets the wrong precedent regarding any woman's capabilities. Instead, assess the person's thinking and commentary independent of gender.
2. Have a Common Set of Success Criteria for Evaluation - One could argue that males are physically stronger than women and because of this, there are gender specific competitions and environments which do exist. However, in all other dimensions, remove any gender specific weightings or biases. Establish a common set of success criteria that is gender neutral.

In the end, we need to judge women by the same yardstick; by their track record and ability to deliver results. This is a better representation of performance so long as it is done in an "Effectively Nice" manner.