Female leaders: are they different?

I’ve been pondering on the existence of Women in Leadership courses and networking groups, as at first glance there should not be a need for them. So why do they exist? And, are they still necessary in 2020?

On reflection, I wonder how we would define female leadership styles and why it might differ from males in the same sphere. Many Leadership and Development programmes and HR teams seem to see leadership potential as a homogeneous attribute and set of skills. My brain keeps holding to the idea that this is not the case, but it’s taken me a while to define why. Recently I wrote a book about the leadership skills required for the future, here. In it I explore the leadership styles I’ve observed, respected and admired, with the assumption that these leaders could be male or female. Now I’m wondering if this assumption is correct or not.

There’s a joke on social media that a father bought a combat game for his two daughters where they were supposed to defend a castle from the wolves. He assumed they would kill the wolves. Instead they fed the wolves and trained them to protect the castle! Presumably a son would not have done…

Photo by Thomas Bonometti on Unsplash

To incentivise the wolves to change their behaviour, the girls made them happy and redirected their energy toward something more positive. I’m sure that men could lead in this way too. What I am not sure about is whether women tend to work like this as a result of cultural influence or inherent skill. Something like nurture versus nature in children. I don’t want to stereotype here though, so comments are welcome.

I’ve been watching the female only Live at the Apollo… with varying levels of laughter! Some women I did not find funny at all, and it hit me that there’s a difference between male and female comedy. I guess some styles are successful for both sexes, but some just doesn’t seem to work? With both genders of comedian, being true to your own sense of humour and personality seems crucial. What worries me at the moment is that female comedians seem to be adopting a male persona, as if only men are funny! I suppose being obviously masculine and obscene is the prevalent genre of popular comedy. The problem is that it doesn’t translate to being delivered by the opposite gender. Male oriented comedy from women rarely works for me. I just don’t laugh, at all (which is rare).

I therefore have a plea for female comedians to be themselves and not the same as their male counterparts… I’m not offended by the masculine joke, it just doesn’t fit for most women. It appears unnatural and therefore not funny.

I love Sarah Millican‘s unique and often obscene female perspective, which regularly has me in tears of hilarity. Can we bring back Victoria Wood’s honest, yet indirect, references to sex and sauciness? Can we show real human life, male and female, with all its warts and idiosyncrasies as both are equally ridiculous through a comedian’s lens. Let’s produce comedy for every age, sense of humour, gender, race and sexuality. Not insulting (too many people) but close to the edge, and about humour not image.

Life is often funny. Showing people and their foibles in every situation is always fun! (I am rewatching Waiting for God showing an old people in a home…). Let’s acknowledge the need for satire, particularly in lockdown and the circumstances we face. The craving for an outlet under difficult circumstances is completely normal. We should enable laughter through tears, of joy or sorrow, which is what reminds us that life is worth living.

Please make me laugh more! It’s the best wellness tonic there is πŸ˜‚πŸ˜πŸ˜…. For tickets to my next leadership talk, please click here: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/talks-based-on-leadership-now-tickets-126059588623

Love Ruth x

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