by Nesrine Ben Beldi
We all know how demanding and disrupting the tech world can be. Changes happen so fast compared to other sectors; integration of systems, processes and applications happens massively, with a high level of complexity to be handled; business needs and requirements are evolving continuously; regulations and audit issues become more and more strict, etc.
How can we find our balance and leadership style in such an environment? Can we make use of the masculine and feminine attributes that we all have, no matter our gender, in order to be the best leader ever? That’s what we would like to explore in this article.
Leadership as we knew it in the industrial age
When we think about the attributes that characterize a great leader in the industrial age, some descriptions come up frequently, such as problem solving skills, quick decision making, and providing direction and vision. These characteristics can easily be seen as related to perceptions of masculine power based on rational capabilities such as decisiveness, clarity, structure, accomplishment and building.
Those characteristics were considered for a long time to be the main ingredients of successful leaders. The hierarchical structure of management that was popularized during the Industrial Revolution was based on a centralized form of authority, where only a select few people (“the bosses”) were needed to determine the goals of the business.
These bosses would then instruct their next-in-line managers, who would then command their workers. This structure, called “functional hierarchy or matrix,” effectively distributed the production process through a clear chain of command. It was simple; it was structured; and most importantly, it allowed organizations to substitute workers with only one function in place of autonomous employees. Information was flowing in only one direction—from bosses to workers–and out-of-the-box thinking was reserved for bosses. Creativity and idea sharing among lower level employees was simply not practical. Hierarchical management made division of labor possible, and in such context, leadership capabilities were only reflected by the masculine rational attributes mentioned earlier.
Recently, however, the digital age has triggered the most extensive transformation of our work and personal lives in human history. Communication has become cheap, and information flows freely thanks to the internet. Large groups of people from all around the world can easily connect to exchange information, news, and ideas. The arrival of Google, Yahoo, and Wikipedia has empowered workers. People are no longer satisfied with being cogs in a machine. They have knowledge at their fingertips and crave responsibility and autonomy. The factors that previously supported hierarchies have been displaced by technological developments that strongly favor networks.
This organizational transformation also pushes us to question our beliefs about the leadership capabilities that were familiar in the industrial age. The changes have led more “feminine” attributes to be presented to the public as major qualifications for a leader,
For example, some organizations referred to as “Digital Masters” (Amazon, Google, Facebook, etc.) have harnessed the power of digital innovation to disrupt and lead their respective sectors and produce higher profits for shareholders. They have achieved this through developing digital age leadership capabilities, which include a mindset that embraces creativity, curiosity, co-creation, collaboration, and people empowerment over the attributes favored in the industrial age. The popularity of business agility, customer-centricity, and value driven approaches has allowed new leadership attributes to emerge.
We went from relying on rational capabilities to qualify a leader to behavioral ones focused on our relationship with ourselves. So the concept of “soft skills” appeared, highlighting capabilities such as intuition, nurturing, empathy, a sense of healing and compassion, ability to give and to receive, creativity, and patience as part of “the leader evaluation criteria”, and by that marking feminine and more emotional attributes as a base that characterizes our vision of leadership.
Leadership attributes in the digital age
The qualities of feminine leadership are very different from the masculine ones. Both have their strengths and shadow aspects. The difference comes from the familiarity we have towards each one of them: For example in the industrial age, it was very common on a job description to find a list of required skills such as problem solving or decision making, rare to find empathy or ability to listen, etc.
If we analyze the success that digital-age companies have had throughout the COVID-19 crisis, we can see that their success comes from leaders who look beyond their unit and organization to enable Outside → In decision making (for example, including customers in the decision process regarding the release of one product/feature, or taking into account customer feedback at early design phases, etc.). Those leaders focused on finding solutions to customers’ priority needs by empowering their teams to keep them motivated and creative through collective intelligence and empathy with themselves and their teams. They adopted a collaborative process to deliver their products/services and managed to define a well-structured cadence and a comfortable work environment where everyone feels “home”. They inspired their teams and knew how to provide a sense of security and confidence by sharing clear directions to all the involved stakeholders.
So basically, what the “digital masters” refer to as digital age leadership capabilities is the fusion of masculine and feminine leadership attributes.
Being an agile leader in the tech world is not only something you do but something you experience within yourself. It requires a change in your mindset and attitudes to find your own balance between masculine and feminine power, and then gain the required skill sets, tool sets, degrees and experiences to achieve it.
With all the uncertainties that we are living with nowadays, just keep in mind that as a digital age leader, you are a highly creative person with a great sense of curiosity capable of navigating the uncertainty, innovative and open to experiment new things and areas and in constant evolution and reskilling. Your natural collaborative mindset and attitude allows you to empower people builds bridges between the problems and the solutions provide direction, clarity and purpose and certainly not afraid of making quick decisions .
So for all the leaders out there, embrace your masculine and feminine power. It’s part of our human nature. Find your balance, don’t let one power dominate the other, be proud, happy, and confident about it, and GO CONQUER THE WORLD !
Stay safe and let your true self build a better world!
You can find Nesrine at:
Linkedin : www.linkedin.com/in/connect-dr-nesrine-ben-beldi
Twitter : @nesrine_beldi