Key to Effective Leadership–For White Men Only


There’s a fair amount of research that’s done on the topic of “organizational effectiveness.” It’s a moneymaker. There’s always a market for people to tell you how to run your business better, whether or not you take that advice. It’s also a field that produces some interesting insights, which is why I followed this link (err, from someone whose taste I trusted, sorry) when I saw it on Twitter:

Although the leaders were from vastly different organizations — military, manufacturing, health care, financial services, retailing and religious — they all agreed that the essence of leader humility involves modeling to followers how to grow.

“Growing and learning often involves failure and can be embarrassing,” says Owens. “But leaders who can overcome their fears and broadcast their feelings as they work through the messy internal growth process will be viewed more favorably by their followers. They also will legitimize their followers’ own growth journeys and will have higher-performing organizations.”

The researchers found that such leaders model how to be effectively human rather than superhuman and legitimize “becoming” rather than “pretending.”

Yay! Realistic leadership is good leadership. Beyond that, it matches our best advice for modeling critical thinking. This is excellent.

Except for one little thing.

Humble leaders who were young, nonwhite or female were reported as having to constantly prove their competence to followers, making their humble behaviors both more expected and less valued. However, humble leaders who were experienced white males were reported as reaping large benefits from humbly admitting mistakes, praising followers and trying to learn.

In contrast, female leaders often feel they are expected to show more humility than their male counterparts, but then they have their competence called into question when they do show humility.

“Our results suggest that female leaders often experience a ‘double bind,'” Owens says. “They are expected to be strong leaders and humble females at the same time.”

Oh, right. That.

Do try to remember that the next time people say minorities must be doing something wrong to get different results as leaders.

Comments

  1. 'Tis Himself, OM. says

    I’m a senior executive in my company. My boss is a vice-president and a woman. Recently she was having a computer problem. She called the help desk and was given a run-around. I came into her office to discuss something completely unrelated. After listening to her being blown-off by the techno-weenie for a minute or two, I asked her to give me the phone. I spent a good five seconds establishing my dominance over the help desk guy (mainly by telling him in a baritone I was an Executive Director) and then got him to fix the problem. After the situation was suitably corrected, I asked the guy what his name was. He told me. I then told him that the woman he was giving grief to was MY boss. I listened to him gabble for a second or two with his sweat-pumps in fast speed, then I hung up. My boss did send an email to the CIO telling him about the sexism problem in his part of the company.

    I shouldn’t have had to step in and fix my boss’s problem. It shouldn’t matter if she was a VP or someone on the floor. She should have gotten prompt, polite attention from the help desk. Unfortunately this sort of problem is endemic in modern society. A woman is automatically considered technologically incompetent and undeserving of service, even from people whose job it is to give service.

  2. 24fps says

    I run a media production company. My spouse is my partner, but my position is the top rung and although we both like the consensus model, there are a lot of things that come down to my call. Most of our employees are contract workers, and the majority are guys.

    One thing I’ve learned is that moments of indecision have to be carefully cloaked in confidence. Listen carefully to advice from your crew, but make sure that you approach it in a way that does not look “weak”. I’ve fostered some really good working relationships with the fellas, but it does not escape me that breaking in a new guy is much easier for my husband than it is for me – some of the more stubborn ones require a verbal smack upside the head before they fully pay attention. On our current project, our post is entirely women, with the exception of my husband. It’s been quite nice, actually.

  3. says

    My mon was a mexican amereican, and worked as a nurse.
    I seem to remember here saying she had the same sort of problems dealing with anglas.

    It’s just not white men that have an attitude problem.

  4. says

    ‘Tis, my last encounter with the help desk ended with me saying, “No. It is not a corrupted file. Have you checked on the thing I said was the problem? No? Please do that now.”

    robert, not even close to just white men.