Feminine Leadership Explained: The ‘Masculine’ and ‘Feminine’ Sides of Leadership Feminine Leadership Explained: The ‘Masculine’ and ‘Feminine’ Sides of Leadership


Feminine Leadership Explained: The ‘Masculine’ and ‘Feminine’ Sides of Leadership

Christophe Martinot

Christophe Martinot

Feminine Leadership is a leadership style associated with traditionally feminine traits and values such as empathy, collaboration, communication, and emotional intelligence. It emphasizes relationship building, inclusiveness, personal growth and well-being, and a more holistic approach to decision-making. In this article, we will dive into the ‘Masculine’ and ‘Feminine’ Sides of Leadership:

At a glance:

  • What is Feminine Leadership?
  • Is Feminine Leadership referring to Female Leaders, or is it leadership only directed toward women?
  • What is better, feminine or masculine leadership?
  • How does modern leadership help to develop Feminine Leadership?

‘Feminine’ Leadership has been studied and discussed for decades, with findings indicating that Feminine Leadership styles were positively related to team effectiveness, particularly in terms of a team member’s satisfaction, commitment, and trust in their leader.

Feminine Leadership styles are effective in certain situations to become more agile, adaptable, and resilient. Organizations can benefit from embracing diverse leadership styles, including those associated with Feminine Leadership, by adapting to changing market conditions and meeting the needs of a diverse workforce.

person typing on silver laptop computer

What is Feminine Leadership?

The term ‘feminine’ in this context refers to a specific leadership style that emphasizes collaboration, empathy, and emotional intelligence, rather than referring to the gender of the leader.

Leaders who adopt a Feminine Leadership style prioritize the well-being and development of their team members; they listen to them and encourage their participation, empower and delegate tasks, create a positive work environment, recognize and reward good performance, and invest in their employees’ professional development. They also tend to be more collaborative, seeking input and feedback from team members before making decisions and valuing the perspectives and ideas of others. This leadership style can benefit organizations that foster teamwork, mutual respect, and open communication.

In the context of leadership style, the opposite of Feminine Leadership is often referred to as ‘masculine’ or ‘traditional’ leadership styles, typically characterized by assertiveness, competitiveness, and a more hierarchical approach to decision-making. Traditional leaders tend to be more direct and authoritative, giving clear instructions and expecting them to be followed without question. They tend to make decisions based on logic and reason rather than on emotions, focusing more on achieving specific goals and objectives, than on building relationships.

What are the key aspects of Feminine Leadership?

As mentioned, Feminine Leadership is characterized by collaboration, empathy, emotional intelligence, and a holistic approach to decision-making. Feminine leaders create a positive and inclusive work environment, prioritize the well-being and development of their team members, and are skilled in communication and active listening.

One key aspect of Feminine Leadership is the emphasis on emotional intelligence. This includes the ability to understand and manage one’s own emotions, as well as the ability to empathize with and understand the feelings of others.

Another important aspect of Feminine Leadership is the focus on communication. Feminine leaders are skilled at active listening, which means they pay close attention to what team members are saying and respond in a way that shows that they understand. They also tend to be more approachable and open to feedback, which helps to build trust and credibility.

Feminine leaders also tend to be more holistic in their approach to decision-making, considering the impact on all stakeholders and not just the bottom line. They believe in the long-term consequences of their choices and view an entire system and its interrelationships. These leaders also take into account the ethical and moral dimensions of their decisions.

In a holistic approach, decision-makers consider the relationships between different parts of the system and how changes in one area may affect other sites. This approach helps leaders make sustainable decisions that benefit the organization and its stakeholders in the long term. This is particularly beneficial in today’s complex and dynamic business environment, where decisions have far-reaching consequences and where the well-being of multiple stakeholders is at stake.

Is Feminine Leadership referring to Female Leaders, or is it leadership only directed toward women?

It is important to note that these characteristics are not exclusively associated with men and that women also adopt traditional leadership styles. Just as significantly, these characteristics are not associated solely with women, and men can also adopt Feminine Leadership styles, read on to learn how.

The idea of Feminine Leadership is not intended to create a binary opposition between men and women as leaders, but to recognize and value different leadership styles and to recognize that men, women, and those who identify themselves differently can… have qualities associated with Feminine Leadership.

Feminine Leadership is not a replacement or a criticism of traditional leadership styles but rather a complement to them. Different leadership styles can be combined to create more effective and adaptable leaders depending on the situation and the team being led.

We all need to embrace our “female” side and allow it to be in business. We need to stop just doing what we’ve always done. We have become “human doings” instead of human beings. Jil Douka from the Forbes Coaches council

Feminine leadership

Are you afraid of Feminine Leadership traits?

I have grown up and been educated with traditional leadership values. Unfortunately, for some of the teams I managed, I was unaware that the feminine side of leadership was so positive.

I was probably one of those men who would adopt a defensive position when the topic of Feminine Leadership was brought to the table. This is a position which can arise for many leaders for various reasons: 

  • Often associated with masculinity, traditional leadership styles have been the norm for many years. As a result, I was more familiar and comfortable with traditional leadership styles and may have been hesitant to embrace a different approach.
  • Another reason is that Feminine Leadership tends to be perceived as less effective or competent than traditional leadership. This perception may be based on stereotypes and biases that associate masculinity with strength, power, and authority, while femininity is stereotypically associated with weakness, passivity, and submissiveness. 
  • Finally, I was probably uncomfortable with the idea of a more collaborative and inclusive approach to leadership as I felt that this approach was less decisive and inefficient, thus failing to align with my traditional view of leadership.
  • Some people (this was not my case) may fear Feminine Leadership because they see it as threatening the status quo. They may see it as a challenge to traditional power structures and routines. They may also see it as a threat to their power and position.

Luckily enough, I have been surrounded and accompanied by strong leaders, and, just as our society has evolved toward prioritizing diversity and inclusion, so did I!

My vision of leadership has broadened and moved away from those prejudices as I began to better understand the benefits of feminine traits in leadership for organizations that struggle in a constantly changing environment, and those that need flexibility and adaptability.

What is better, feminine or masculine leadership?

It is not a matter of one leadership style being ‘better’ than the other. Different situations and contexts may call for different leadership styles. Therefore, both feminine and traditional (or masculine) leadership styles have their advantages and disadvantages, and both can be effective in other circumstances.

Feminine Leadership can be beneficial for organizations looking to foster a culture of teamwork, mutual respect, and open communication. This leadership style can also lead to more engaged, motivated, and productive employees and more successful and resilient organizations.

Traditional, or masculine, leadership can be beneficial for organizations looking for a more direct and authoritative approach. This leadership style can be effective in crises where quick and decisive action is needed. It can also be helpful in organizations where a competitive environment is necessary to drive success.

It is vital to balance masculine and feminine leadership styles within organizations. A leader who can adapt their leadership style to the situation and to their team members’ needs can achieve better results than a leader who only relies on one specific leadership style.

Both feminine and traditional (or masculine) leadership styles have their own advantages and disadvantages, and both can be effective in different circumstances. Rather than focusing on one specific leadership style, leaders need to be aware of their strengths and weaknesses; they need to be able to adapt their leadership style to the situation and their team members’ needs.

How can we help to develop Feminine Leadership?

Nowadays the modern leadership approach emphasizes a more holistic and empowering approach to leading and managing teams. Organizations are willing to become more agile, adaptable, and resilient and are particularly well-suited to supporting the development of Feminine Leadership styles.

One of the key aspects of modern leadership is “Empowerment and Autonomy,” which encourages leaders to give their team members the autonomy and resources they need to be successful. This aligns with the approach of Feminine Leadership, which prioritizes the well-being and development of team members, and empowers them to take ownership of their work.

Another key aspect of modern leadership is “Holistic Thinking,” which encourages leaders to consider the impact of their decisions on all stakeholders, not just the bottom line. This aligns with the holistic approach of Feminine Leadership, which considers the impact of decisions on all stakeholders, including team members, customers, and the community.

Additionally, modern leadership emphasizes “Continuous Improvement” and “Learning Organization,” which aligns with the approach of Feminine Leadership, which is more open to feedback and learning and focuses on the professional development of team members.

Modern leadership also encourages leaders to use a variety of leadership styles, depending on the situation and the team being led. This aligns with the flexible approach of Feminine Leadership, which adapts to the needs of the team and the situation.

Feminine Leadership can help create a culture of trust, open communication, and mutual respect, which is essential for an Agile team’s success. Modern leadership offers the approach, principles, and practices that will help and facilitate leaders in their adoption of Feminine Leadership. 

I could not conclude better than my wife Patricia did:

In a close to ideal world, leaders would follow science-based practices and put a high focus on engaging with and inspiring their employees, while providing them with a sense of belonging and purpose.

Instead, we continue to see that the average performance of leaders is pretty disappointing. More bosses are contributing to burnout, anxiety, boredom, and productivity losses than driving top team or organizational performance. 

So no wonder we are facing a new leadership blueprint.

Feminine Leadership is the new paradigm of business connection and impact.

Whether you’ve made it to the executive’s playground or are about to step into your first management role, leadership skills are something we can always brush up on and improve upon.

Whether you are a male or a female leader, you can master feminine leadership qualities, and the most successful leaders will.

We can help you develop resilience and agility in your organization. If you are interested! Should you be interested in learning more please do not hesitate to contact us!

(Article previously published on Management 3.0, adapted for our website)