Beginning in childhood, I’ve learned a lot from boys (not men yet). I learned from my brothers how to climb trees and change the oil in my car. I learned how to stick up for myself and how to get what I wanted.
As I entered the work force, I learned from men how biting my fingernails undermined my intelligence, how to present ideas in logical and unemotional ways, and how to think critically under fire.
And, as I’ve grown my business, I’ve learned from men how my personality best leads, how to ask for what I want, and how to put a real value on my expertise without apology.
I love men.
But they’re not the end all, be all.
Women as Leaders
Women have a significant place in this world, as well. In fact, according to Why Women Should Lead Boldly, there are several studies that show how well organizations do with women at the helm.
- Pepperdine University reported businesses with more women in leadership reported better financial results than those with fewer women leaders.
- The Massachusetts Institute of Technology found the only high predictor of a group’s creativity and effectiveness was the number of women in the group.
- Harvard Business School reported peers, bosses, direct reports, and associates rated senior executive women up to 10 percent better as leaders than male senior executives.
- Credit-Suisse Research Institute found companies with women on their boards outperformed those with all male boards.
But we have one problem facing us: We have an innate need to be liked, which has serious and long-lasting implications.
Likable or Successful?
You see, men don’t care if you do or don’t like them. They don’t care if you don’t like their decisions. They don’t care if you are envious of their success. If they have a problem with another man, they’ll go out back, fight it out, and then have a beer together.
But women? We adjust our behavior to be likable. We do care what you think about us and that gives us less power in the boardroom and in our personal lives.
In a world where we want the top jobs and equal pay and equal rights, we have to stop playing a supporting role in our own lives. By wanting to be liked, we are more concerned with what others think about us than with doing the very best job, even if it’s not popular.
Sure, some of this requires a pretty big culture change, but that change can begin with each of us. Would you rather live your life how you think others want you to do so or determine your own path to success?
A modified version of this first appeared in my weekly Crain’s Chicago Business column.