The Advancing Leadership Blog

5 Traits of Men Who Lead

by Catherine Osler, CEO of TEC Canada

Business leaders have increasingly begun to recognize they need to develop and maximize their leadership abilities to thrive in the new economy. Leadership and influence is a complex, multi-dimensional topic currently being researched, explored and examined from an infinite number of perspectives. All of this new work can help business leaders achieve results beyond what they thought possible.

In my last column, I shared some of my research about leadership traits generally found in successful women business leaders. This month, I’d like to take a look at those generally found in men. Readers of both my columns will note men and women exhibit some of the same leadership traits. While recent research and my own experience indicates great leaders of both genders share common characteristics, here are the traits more generally associated with men.

1) Men are focused on crossing the finish line
According to Gary N. Powell’s study “Women and Men in Management,” women practice a more democratic style of leadership, while men tend to take a more direct, focused approach. Acting with single-minded focus to execute smart, well-conceived plans is a fundamental trait of accomplished men.

But to cross the finish line and achieve the desired end results means learning from the mistakes that inevitably occur even with the best laid plans. Great leaders see a learning opportunity in everything, but especially in their mistakes. Steve Jobs was fiercely even stubbornly single-minded, but it is generally acknowledged by his critics and admirers he learned from his business errors.

2) Men are natural risk takers
In 2013, Loblaw’s President Galen Weston Jr. engineered a $12.4 billion takeover of Shoppers Drug Mart, one of the biggest in the country’s retail history. This, along with his strong stance on the need for change in Bangladesh after the Dhaka factory collapse in April 2013, led Canadian Press to select Weston as Business Newsmaker of the Year.

Risk is a necessary part of change and growth. The blog “Leadership Freak” captures the dynamic of men and risk in the following statement: “Male leaders tend to take risks publicly and expect others to be inspired by their boldness.”

3) Men can keep emotion out of the workplace
Shaunti Feldhahn, author of “The Male Factor,” spent seven years conducting intense research, including interviews with more than 3000 men, in an effort to help women better understand how to interact with males in the workplace. One of her findings was that confrontations in the workplace don’t seem to distract men in their efforts to accomplish a given task. They can experience a tough conversation, an emotional termination, a heated Board meeting – and then move forward. As Peter Drucker wrote, “effective leadership is not about being liked; leadership is defined by results not attributes.”

4) Men know their value
Several recent surveys indicate successful men recognize the responsible accumulation of long-term wealth – whether through entrepreneurial risk taking, salary negotiation or investment – is a trade-off for their hard work, skill, talent and knowledge. Men’s ability to put emotion aside means money negotiations remain strictly business and not personal. Successful men know financial responsibility and gain is the leverage to pursue their dreams.

5) Sharing Similarity, Celebrating Diversity
The traits I have been discussing in this column are a finely balanced exercise in leadership. While some traits may come more naturally to one gender, becoming an inspiring leader is about knowing your strengths and recognizing your weaknesses, with a goal to continuously improve. It is also a reminder to celebrate the differences between male and female leaders and the richness diverse leadership can bring to create greater understanding in the workplace and ultimately stronger organizations.

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