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Will Traditionally "Feminine" Leadership Traits Help to Make the World a Better Place?

11/06/2013 08:55 BST | Updated 07/08/2013 10:12 BST

According to John Gerzema and Michael D'Antonio in the The Athena Doctrine: How Women (and the Men Who Think Like Them) Will Rule the Future (April 2013), traditionally feminine traits are essential to making the world a better place. In addition, women and the men who think like them (however that may be) are creating a future that we will all want to inhabit. This isn't just a book about women, or about gender. It's about leadership and competitive advantage, and what both men and women need to do to succeed in the 21st century.

In their intriguing social research, Gerzema and D'Antonio surveyed 32,000 people world-wide attempting to classify over 100 different human behavioural traits as masculine, feminine or neutral. Another 32,000 people then rated these words, but without gender identification, on the importance of these traits on leadership, success, morality and happiness. Comparing the two studies, they statistically modelled how these masculine and feminine traits could relate to solving today's challenges.

Which traits were considered feminine? Not surprisingly terms such as strong, decisive, assertive, competitive, selfish, and aggressive were considered to be masculine traits. Feminine ones included trustworthy, adaptable, supportive, selfless, empathetic, conscientious, intuitive, and social. This led to me thinking about the more successful leaders that I have worked with. Top of my list were the ones who set an example through hard work, their insight or intuition, openness and honesty and the way they used reason to dispel friction and politics. They were the ones who cared and supported team members and valued the different roles and skills that people have, realising that a balanced team gets better results than going it alone. I should point out that all of the leaders I have ear-marked as 'good' are in fact men - they just happen to possess 'feminine' traits. What is interesting though is that, with one exception, these weren't men who made it to the boardroom. Those who were more competitive and who possessed the more 'masculine' traits of decisiveness, aggression and resilience, were the ones that got the top jobs.

Call me cynical but, if getting to the boardroom is a definition of success, good leadership still needs to be complemented by an ability to fight, play the politics, be in the right place at the right time and make sure that you not only do the job but make sure that everyone knows about it (blow your own trumpet).

But I am also an optimist and believe change is possible and necessary and was heartened by the item on BBC News on Tuesday 4th June, that increasing the number of women in the workforce would dramatically boost the UK's economic growth, according to a government-backed report.

If women were represented in the same numbers as men in the workforce, GDP growth would be up to 10% higher by 2030, the study claims - ultimately resulting in more candidates in the construction industry aiming for higher positions.

John Gerzema also made the point that technology, the financial crisis and globalisation mean we live in a world that's increasingly social, interdependent, and transparent and that business and political models that are built on aggression, control, conflict and command are losing currency. But is the tough, macho construction industry ready for a new approach and more female representation? Rob Searle, Commercial Director of CareerStructure.com believes more women is a must saying : "The under representation of women in the built environment has long been an issue - women simply aren't being engaged by the industry, and as result, it is losing out on talent to other industries."

This discussion is more than just about the percentage of women employed in the construction industry or how many have board level positions. It's about both men and women embracing more feminine values like empathy and collaboration in order to succeed. According to Gerzema and D'Antonio, the future belongs to those who are willing to step out of the box and take a new approach.

Shimon Peres put it this way: "We are in a new season with many old minds, and the task is to adapt yourself. The modern leader is here to serve."

Recognition of female talent has been assisted by numerous award ceremonies, such as the First Women Awards - supported by COINS - where we sponsored for the first time the Women in the Built Environment category last year.

The First Women Awards ceremony will take place on Wednesday 12 June and is hosted by Real Business in association with Lloyds Banking Group. For further information click here.