From my 45-year study of leadership, one of the most informative books I’ve read on the topic is The Handbook ofLeadership by Bernard Bass (1990). (Unless you’re a leadership junkie, you probably don’t want to tackle this voluminous monster.)
Here’s a thumbnail of Bass’s Model of Leadership, which he derived from the extensive research detailed in the book. Leadership comes in two varieties:
- Transactional – when the leader coaxes followers to do what he/she wants via rewards of some sort, or when the leader threatens (and/or applies) penalty/punishment when followers don’t behave and act as desired.
- Transformational – when the leader uses individualized attention, motivation, inspiration, intellectual stimulation, and modeling to entice the desired behaviors/actions from followers.
From my study of Bass and numerous other authors who have written about transformational leadership, I became convinced that I had some serious gaps in my own leadership skills. I concluded that my effectiveness as a leader could be improved if I could grow myself in areas of leadership that Dr. Bass declared to be more naturally acquired and practiced by women. Yep, Bass said that women leaders prove to be more dispositionally inclined to operate within those transformational leadership constructs than do men.
Thus, I set out about 15 years ago to learn more about women’s ways of leading. I know it sounds strange to hear that from a southern country boy, but that journey has proven to be most gratifying for me. Trying to learn and practice women’s ways of leading has made me a much stronger leader in the following ways:
- I am much more inclined to operate from a collaborative worldview.
- I listen more and talk less.
- I better understand that there must be an emotional connection between leaders and followers.
- I very rarely issue mandates, directives, or ultimatums.