Posted by: brittanybranch | January 17, 2018

Using Our “Feminine Qualities” as a Leadership Tool

For those of you who do not already know me, my name is Brittany Branch.  For as long as I can remember, I have been involved in leadership positions, both big and small.  It has always been my goal to lead with kindness and compassion, but sometimes I feel as if this “feminine” quality hurts my ability to lead.  I have experienced several instances in which I have been called “too nice”, a “pushover” and have felt “walked on” by males that I have worked with.  However, after being in this class and doing some of my own outside research, I have been reminded that my “feminine” qualities enhance my leadership abilities, not stifle them.

In Chapter One of Changing the Leadership Gap by Marie C. Wilson, I was really drawn to the idea that women do tend to lead differently.  According to Wilson, women bring inclusiveness, empathy, community, and communication to their environments.  They tend to work toward bringing down hierarchies and are more likely to work collaboratively.  Women tend to be more nurturing, relational, better listeners, and less aggressive.  In a sense, women tend to lead in a way that is kind.  In her writing, Wilson claims that these qualities result in better leadership.  While I believe that good leadership is determined based on context, for the most part, I agree with her stance.  Followers tend to respond better when they feel included and valued.  In my experience, women leaders tend to go out of their way to ensure that their followers and colleagues feel comfortable and important.  By displaying the traits that Wilson identifies in the reading, women tend to show their followers that they appreciate and care for them.  While I have definitely seen these qualities displayed in male leaders, I find that “softer” leadership qualities are more consistently found in women.

According to Jone Bosworth, the Founder and CEO of inCourage Leading, LLC: Growing Women’s Greatness, there is substantial evidence to support that kind leaders get better results.  In the article attached below, Emma Seppala, PH.D, a Research Scientist at Stanford University and the Associate Director of the Center for Compassion and Altruism Research and Education at Stanford University, details several studies in Being a Kind Boss Pays Off.  To sum up the details, it is believed that kind leaders are better for the health of the followers; followers experience greater trust with kind leaders; followers are inspired by kindness; kindness promotes the bonding of followers; and with the use of the right strategies, kind leaders can and often do perform better in a leadership situation.

I have experienced the power of kindness in my own leadership on several occasions.  However, there was one instance that has really impacted me and how I choose to lead.  I was in an executive position for an organization and I was having trouble with getting one of the male members to complete an assignment.  I had been asking him to complete the assignment for weeks and he just was not getting it done.  I called one of my leadership role models, a male, and asked him what to do.  Essentially, he told me that I needed to “stop being so nice” and “really bring the hammer down”.  I decided to take his advice and when I did, the person I was having trouble with became hostile, defensive, and even more noncompliant.  The next day, we met in person and I returned to using my usual leadership style of being kind and compassionate.  I asked him about what was going on in his life and why it was taking him so long to complete the assignment.  At the end of the conversation, we were on the same page and left with a better understanding of each other and the situation.  He completed the assignment that night.  It was in that moment that I realized the true impact of kindness in leadership.  By sincerely expressing the care and compassion I had for this person as a follower, I gained the member’s respect, compliance, and continued contribution to the organization.

For too long, kindness, especially in women, has been associated with being weak and unsuitable to lead.  It is time for society to recognize that kindness and compassion contribute greatly to success and progression.  We need to stop telling women in leadership to hide their “feminine qualities”.  Instead, we need to encourage them to use them to their advantage because in many instances, what are mistaken as soft and delicate qualities are some of the strongest, powerful, and most effective leadership traits.



  1. I have found that women leadership techniques resemble leadership while male’s domineering characteristics are more managerial style that we learned in our freshman leadership classes (If ya’ll are in PLP). People skills are an asset like any other leadership skills that should be appreciated in their own rights. I agree that men and women have different ways of leading and that both have benefits and cons in certain situations. Another conflict that I have found is that women and men are often pitted against each other as if one is good at something that the other can not excel in the same way. Rather than appreciating each leadership technique, people like to have strict right and wrong ways to do things. I think empathy and listening have a huge part in successful leadership and happy followers that are willing to work with the leader.

  2. Having the ability to be more collaborative, nurturing, and being seen as a better listener makes for an overall effective leader because they are more in-tune with their follower’s emotions and needs. Learning and acting upon leadership begins at such an early age, especially in day care and pre-school. In these settings, children begin to learn societal norms and values, which often stays with them well into adulthood. For instance, in American society, being emotional is more appropriate for females than males. Women have less restraints in their emotional intelligence, while men can be disregarded when they show their feelings. This societal norm could be one reason why men and women lead differently, and women are seen are more nurturing and kind. Having empathy and compassion are important leadership qualities. I think the best way to include this into both male and female leaders is to rethink our strict gender norms by showing that displaying emotions, such as kindness and compassion, are equally okay for both sides to exhibit, not just one.

  3. I think this post brings up a really great point! There’s an assumption that the nurturing tendencies of women are detrimental to the leadership process, but there women in the workforce that prove this wrong everyday. My mom is a fairly senior government official who oversees the day-to-day functioning of an important branch of the Intelligence Community. She was brought in three years ago to fix the workplace culture problems her department was facing. When she began, she realized that the all male leadership team that had been running the organization since it had began was so task oriented that employees felt ignored and unappreciated. This task-orientation is important when you’re running a very important governmental department, but people are less productive when they don’t feel valued. Three years of trying to refocus some of the leadership team and an open-door policy has significantly improved the culture of the organization and makes them able to be more productive on a daily basis. They still have improvements to make, but they are finally moving in the right direction. This just goes back to our conversation last week on why we want women to lead: they bring a unique perspective that can assist in long-term productivity.

  4. Often times I have also been criticized for being too nice and having “feminine” qualities in my leadership style. As a male, however, there is even less tolerance for this type of leadership style in the work place. I find there is a time and place for showing different language and leadership styles. According to Carli and Bukatko reading, a collaborative/mitigating approach is preferred in a mixed sex environment. I find this to be especially true in classroom and group setting where it is best to act as the mediator and I always get a good response. However, this does not work all the time, in an all-male environment the person who is the loudest, talks the quicks and has the most confidence tends to lead. My style in an all-male setting tends to fight for my ideas and shift away from mitigation. This is also true in an all-female group, sometimes I feel when there is more direction it is better to state what needs to get and act more directive in my approach as well.

  5. I found it quite interesting too that our reading assignments discussed the differences between male and female leadership styles and qualities. I do agree with your point that “women tend to lead in a way that is kind”. I have seen women lead in a warm, friendly and genuine manner. I have led that way myself. I have also experienced what you have in a sense that I used to often feel as though I was too nice and this caused people to use and abuse me. However, I experienced this with both males and females. People would walk all over me and take advantage of me. Unfortunately, the only way I could get around this was becoming firmer, stricter and a little less kind and warm. It is sometimes a bit difficult for me to act in this way because it isn’t natural for me. Our readings mentioned that women have a more collaborative leadership style, but sometimes men who are more extroverted or aggressive than their female counterparts are easily able to manipulate the conversation in a collaborative and inclusive setting.

  6. You hit the nail on the head for me! I want to go into management and leadership positions in my career, and I’ve always thought that my interpersonal skills would be my biggest asset on getting those positions and doing well in them.

    The attitude that classically feminine women tend to project is more nurturing. Instead of demanding things from our subordinates, we ask. Instead of establishing our authority, we try to put ourselves on the level of our subordinates. A nurturing attitude tends to make people feel more comfortable, and it uplifts their growth rather than knocking it down. Those things can really stand out in a sea of male managers who ascribe to more masculine corporate images.

    I read somewhere that friendship is made by people progressively revealing vulnerability. Someone is vulnerable (maybe expresses and insecurity) and the other person accepts it, maybe even sharing some vulnerable part of themselves. As these trades go on vulnerability and trust increases. As leaders, we don’t have to be our subordinates “friends” necessarily, but we can build up trust. Women tend to project more vulnerability and be emotionally open, which is perfect for forming that trust.

    Though managers might think we’re being to weak or pushovers for using more feminine styles of communication, I think the success of what we lead and the respect of our subordinates will reflect the strength of a classically feminine leadership style.

  7. I think you bring up a really good point. I think as female leaders, we are often told that we are too nice and need to perform with more distinctiveness in our leadership roles. Even as I complete the readings for class, I feel I am constantly reading how typical female leadership qualities put us at a disadvantage for leading. I think your post poses a very important idea that we often forget. While we do tend to lead differently from men, we are also capable of bringing more qualities to the table. As you’ve mentioned a few, such as the collaboration, willing to work with others and the general kindness. This allows us the lead in a different way than men and to offer alternatives to subordinates. I think you’ve perfectly summed up the positives of the “typical” female leadership style.

  8. I really relate to a lot of the topics that you brought up in your post. I have also tried to always lead with compassion and a nurturing style. As my mom, and I’m sure many other moms as well, told me growing up it is always best to kill people with kindness. No matter how aggravated I get whether in a leadership position or not, I always try to see the positive outlook. I definitely feel the same way that you do about how many people take my kindness as being a pushover. I also relate with how you said the one time you “brought the hammer down” the person you were trying to relate to, lashed out even more. I find it very hard to find the appropriate balance of kind but ready to lead.

  9. I very much agree that these “feminine qualities” offer a solid way to lead and a new perspective on leadership and management. I believe both genetically (the nurturing, motherly aspect) and societally (the established gender roles) the female has been morphed into the empathetic person you mentioned that we see most of the time. I believe every woman and man has an inner strength based off of their own personality and people should respect that inner strength whether it be your womanly kindness and compassion that could be viewed as a “pushover” or someone else’s stronghold dedication that might come off as “controlling.” I feel if one tries to change who they are internally no one will respect the true individual we are. Personally, I share the same emotional and feminine side when it comes to everyday activities day in and day out; however, my leadership style does not follow that average.

    My mother moved up in management of a male dominated industry where there were many men beneath her and although she struggled, she made a name for herself. From the time I was four years old, at major events my parents would put me on stage in front of huge crows to say a prayer, or sing the national anthem which at a young age instilled a sense of courage, strength and outgoingness. Those moments in growing up have shifted my leadership style into more of what society deems a the masculine way of leading as being more outspoken and rarely letting anyone walk all over me. Honestly, when I have been walked all over, it has been by females because they tend to intimidate me more than being in a group of males. I have found myself reverting to my internal emotional softness when surrounded by lots of estrogen!

    Following that, and stemming from the “Gender, Communication and Social Influence: A Developmental Perspective,” reading we had for class today, do you feel that you would be more comfortable leading in your kind and compassionate style when your followers were all women versus all men or a mixed group?

  10. I completely agree that women in leadership positions DO lead differently. I think that women around the world need to accept that and not feel like they have to change their leadership styles to accommodate the “better” leadership style because women’s leadership style is an equality effective approach to leadership. In fact, I personally believe that women styles are even the better style. I recognize that this may be a bias answer as I am a women so it seems to make sense that I would prefer the feminine approach. I feel like women possess nurturing and collaborative characteristics that make them better listeners and better at developing a strong team. Although, I must admit that every situation is different and therefore calls for different leadership techniques and styles; but I do believe that in a lot of cases being kind is the best way to reach your followers.
    I relate to you as I am also a very kind, “feminist” styled leader and I have seen the ups and downs to leading people in this way. Oddly enough, I feel like I learned this from my father, which is a fresh reminder that not everyone fits in their society-assigned gender role boxes.

  11. The ideas you shared in this post really resonated with me. I personally believe that the “masculine” mold of leadership can often be very damaging to organizations, as it causes only a certain personality type to rise to the top. It seems contradictory to me that we associate aggression and dominance with leadership positions, yet generally when working under someone who has these qualities, I know that at least I feel a natural aversion and dislike towards them.

    I have always responded well to empathy and understanding from a leader. Being able to balance not being pushed around with being collaborative, understanding, and willing to work with your followers is a skill that all leaders should learn to master, and I agree that these attributes are often found in female leaders. This is most likely due to more of societal nurturing of encouraging these qualities to be expressed in the female gender rather than innate differences between male and females, but still allows it to be true that females are more willing to resolve conflict in a more collaborative fashion.

    At the root of everything, we as people tend to just want to be understood, and it really made sense to me the example you shared of speaking to the worker about the assignment due, because often times all a follower needs in order to align themselves with the leader is to feel cared for and as if they are being heard. No one wants to work for a leader they don’t care for, and this is why I personally believe typically “feminine” qualities are highly important in leadership positions.

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