Posted by: beccamariej | September 30, 2012

Gendered Leadership Traits

I found this article about Michelle and Barack Obama and there was a piece in it I found interesting. The article brought up the idea of Michelle possibly running for office after Barack was done and she said she doesn’t quite have the patience for it. Here is the bit I wanted to point out:

As for Michelle, President Obama said, “She should run for office, but she says she doesn’t want to.”
“I mean, Michelle would be terrific,” he continued, “but temperamentally I just don’t think [she could].”
“Yeah, no,” the first lady said. “It takes a lot of patience to be the president of the United States, and I’m not that patient.”


I know we’ve talked a bit about this before: how various traits and characteristics are categorized as feminine or masculine and leadership has always been more of a masculine area. So when I read that she wasn’t “patient” enough I immediately thought about how I always see patience as something more feminine. I’m not saying men aren’t patient, but I always see patience on display usually when women are taking care of others (such as children) so the fact that she said she didn’t have the patience struck me as interesting because it’s more of a feminine characteristic, at least in my eyes.

Does anyone else share that feeling?


  1. Becca, I read this article this week as well. I did find it interesting that both Barack and Michelle pointed out that she didn’t have enough patience to be the president; although I didn’t completely believe her. Since we’ve been reading articles comparing the fulfillment of motherhood vs. leadership I couldn’t get away from the fact that motherhood is a leadership position in itself. Mothers influence the entire family, make important decisions, are responsible for the care of the entire family. Why I didn’t believe Michelle is because I think having the patience of a mother is something that leaders should posses, especially within the Oval Office.
    To answer your question I do think there are aspects of patience that are gendered. The patience of a mother, having patience with people is something most people see as feminine. On the other hand having patience within business situations, or patience hand in hand with something like determination or ambition is seen as a masculine “go-get ’em” attitude.

    Maybe Michelle feels she doesn’t have the “right kind” of patience; but either way it is nice to see a trait such as patience associated with leading. It isn’t a very publicized trait leaders are often praised for possessing or lacking.

  2. As you may recall from 310, patience wasn’t one of the traits in the list associated with effective leadership (via trait theories), nor one of the behaviors associated with effective leadership (via behavioral theories) either. When we talk about gender differences in leadership styles later in the semester, we should be sure to revisit this notion of patience. Regardless of its potentially gendered nature, at least Michelle has enough self-awareness to know it is not her strong suit, and that patience as a mother may be different than patience with political process. That said, we have also touched on the research that indicates that women are more likely to downplay – as well as not have as much confidence in – their competence and abilities. (Note, I’m not arguing here that Michelle is ready or not for a run at the presidency.) I wonder, though, would Hillary claim to have patience if it is such a gendered quality? Perhaps we should be looking for the qualities themselves rather than the identities of those portraying them. As we have discussed, generalizations and tendencies do not fit each individual.

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