Traits of Great Leaders

atkins-bookshelf-cultureIn their new book, The Athena Doctrine: How Women (and the Men Who Think Like Them) Will Rule the Future, corporate consultant John Gerzema and PulitzerPrize-winning journalist Michael D’Antonio present a fascinating study of leadership traits. The authors surveyed 64,000 people in 13 countries to find out about their views on leadership in general; to characterize 125 traits or values as female, male, or neutral; and to select the traits they would want in the ideal leader.

The research indicated that traits traditionally considered feminine, are critical to effective leadership in today’s world. According to The Athena Doctrine, these are the seven most desirable traits of a modern leader:

1. Empathy
2. Vulnerability
3. Humility
4. Inclusiveness
5. Generosity
6. Balance
7. Patience

More than 65% of respondents believe that the world would be a better place if men though more like women. Gerzema observes: “Whether you are talking about corporate America or Silicon Valley, it’s still a man’s world with masculine structures and women conforming to those ideals. Feminine traits and values are a new form of innovation. They are an untapped form of competitive advantage.” 

In her review of The Athena Doctrine, Leigh Buchanan, editor of Inc. magazine, succinctly summarizes the gradual evolution of management from a stern, masculine style to a kinder, gentler feminine style: “We have progressed from command-and-control (roughly through the 1980s) to empower-and-track (the 1990s to mid-2000s) to connect-and-nurture (today). Increasingly, the chief executive role is taking its place among the caring professions. It takes a tender person to lead a tough company.”

And clearly, the modern world, and particularly an entirely new generation of men and women — are far more receptive to a “feminine” style of management than ever before. Gerzema writes: “Technology, the financial crisis and globalization mean we live in a world that’s increasingly social, interdependent, and transparent. Also, young people around the world don’t see differences older generations do–we found that Millennials of both genders have a much stronger appreciation of femininity and the role of women in their society.

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For further reading: The Athena Doctrine: How Women (and the Men Who Think Like Them) Will Rule the Future, by John Gerzema and Michael D’Antonio, Jossey-Bass (2013)

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