THE BLOG
05/21/2013 02:20 pm ET | Updated Jul 20, 2013

2013 - Leadership and the Dance of Men and Women: Some Observations

"Sugar and Spice and Everything Nice"--that's the myth of girls, women, the feminine.

"Frogs and Snails and Puppy Dog Tails"--that's the myth of boys, men, the masculine.

Some Myths and "Truths:"

1. Men are built and operate differently than women. (Historically).
2. Women's top (and natural) priority is relationship. (Historically).
3. Men's top priority--historically and still--is action. Or, in other words, freedom (of action). Or, in other words, winning (from action).
4. Men are committed to, wired for, sex, including sexual action; often first and foremost (and definitely not only). For almost all women, sex can be really great, AND it is often nothing without relationship. Apparently, men and women have very different priorities.
5. Most of our leaders are men--for now.

Observation: We put leaders (both men and women) on a pedestal, and then relish sharpshooting them down for their less-than-perfect natures. America (and largely the world) has few authentic leaders emerge from the thrashing. Not many of us are willing to take on and survive, let alone transform, the shame, blame and controversy that are gunning for almost every (public) leader.

Definition: An authentic leader: See Social Science Research Network; see also "Winners, Opportunists, Hustlers" & "Leading the United States: Three Perspectives".

Stands for, initiates and fulfills futures that weren't going to happen anyway.

1. He or she inspires and engages people in their fulfillment and includes and accounts for naysayers.
2. Authentic leaders address stops, breakdowns, and setbacks, openly, and collaboratively.
3. Looks for and generates new openings for action, new patterns to emerge, new turning points into momentum, that allow for what can be called a "breakthrough."

A breakthrough is an event, outcome or impact beyond current prediction and know-how.

Breakthroughs are intentionally generated, prior to knowing how to do them.

Examples:

• The Wright Brothers invented the airplane before they knew how-to.
• As did Columbus discover America before he knew how-to.
• As did the Founders before they "knew" how to found a working, constitutional democracy.

"Knowing how-to" is looking backwards after something that happened has been learned from, "explained" and "understood." Leaders who create breakthroughs operate not primarily from know-how but primarily from their stand, and the integrity of their stand, for the future, for what's possible. They generate/allow/empower themselves and others to think, be, invent, improvise, experiment, and act from a stand, their stand for the future....before it exists as "reality." See Social Science Research Network.

"Traveler, there is no path.
Paths are made by walking."

-Antonio Machado, Spanish Poet

Consider: We may have very little facility to openly and fully engage in and explore (let alone openly celebrate) the differences between men and women, and the possibilities of men and of women - as leaders, as distinct, as unique, as fundamentally and usefully different, one from the other.

We do have, instead, our ideals, standards, notions, habits, and myths about what "should be." We often like to make fun of both men and women when they violate our "notions"...which, being human, happens daily. In this sense, ideals, by definition, are "ideal"--always just out of reach, aspirational, mythical, perhaps most useful if we realize "ideals" are not designed to be really, fully attainable or sustainable in our everyday lives. This is why they are "ideals" (perfect; "God-like" creations). Ideals regarding men and women are pervasive and are like Greek gods--useful, inspiring, aspirational myths.

Not much honest, open, public conversation celebrates and benefits from our unique man/woman differences. The consequences of this "blind-spot" may impact our leadership. What we have, often, is one leader after another after another after another, diminished and discounted, as "bad and wrong" for some thing or another--for men, it's usually their short-sighted, self-serving actions of one kind or another (their "drivenness"); for women, it's usually their supposed "inability" of one kind or another....to be decisive, or genuinely visionary, or hard-edged, or quantitative.

Question: Is authentic, bold, inspiring, effective leadership, as men, and, distinctly, as women, really as scarce as it seems?

Consider: Women largely have had the male model of leadership to work from, or, against, distinct from a whole new possibility of, and for, women who lead, and lead well, collaboratively and decisively as women.

While men clearly have "led" and innovated in many useful, and sustaining ways (and have also failed to do so) we remain unclear as to what women - in full partnership with men - might provide distinctly as leaders.

Without actually acknowledging, exploring, learning from and benefitting from our unique differences as men, and as women, and thereby including and benefitting from the different ways we may lead, we may simply default, quite naturally and automatically, to our leadership models from the past, which could be said to be ...

Men:
• Who "know," and thereby have the "obligation" to direct and order people (both men and women);
• Who are clearly, automatically, almost mechanically, driven to hit targets regarding almost anything and almost everywhere;
• Who in their "knowing" (decisively) the answers (and pretending it, if they don't) do order and direct others, and thereby gain the accountability, leverage and benefits of such knowing and authority;
• And who, from time to time, perhaps under the constraint of these habits, limits, and pretenses, have engaged in what is called, "inappropriate" sex, and not infrequently, tried their hand at corruption, addiction, and sometimes, violence;
• Or who simply, from time to time, have defaulted to lackluster performance.

Possibility: Consider fully giving up our "political" correctnesses (our cultural insistences) regarding who men and women are "spozed to be" and what, historically, they have been expected or demanded to be--that men must dominate life through their actions and their winning (conquest; success), and women, historically, must be separate from, protected from, other than, less than, more than, better than, insulated from, or competitive with, such domination.

What if today, in this post-feminist era, we openly explore, even openly celebrate, "the differences" between men and women, as creative and emerging possibilities? What if we consider recognizing, and allowing, the biases and historical priorities of the sexes simply as starting points, and thereby allow a more powerful and effective interplay, collaboration, "dance," between and with the sexes?

What if men, some men, are neither the enemy nor the obstacle? What if, when approached appropriately, men will actively, and with commitment, champion women leaders to emerge and emerge now? What if women need to identify which men are champions, and then, pop the question/make the request? "Will you be my champion?"

Perhaps .... just perhaps .... an engaged, sexy, playful, innovative, even joyous interchange naturally happens between men and women, when each sex is enabled to discover and express themselves, their leadership, and their differences, uniquely, fully and unashamed.

Resources:
The Sterling Institute of Relationship
Landmark Education
Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus - John Gray
• The Mermaid and the Minotaur - Dr. Dorothy Dinnerstein