A New Model for Men’s Leadership

March 23, 2021

A New Model for Men’s Leadership

It is a moment of change—big change—for men in the workplace.

Today’s leaders require non-stereotypical male traits, such as nurturing, empathizing and inclusive decision-making. Yet, we expect men to be independent achievers, dominant and ambitious. It used to be that what was expected of a man was the same as what was expected of a leader. Indeed, when leadership was more top-down, men didn’t have a disconnect between being a leader and being a man. But in today’s business world, we require collaborative leaders, which carries a new set of expectations. And just as successful executive women have developed a blend of stereotypical male and female characteristics that balance gender and leadership expectations, men need to develop a unique blend of those attributes for their own balancing act. I set out to identify that unique blend of attributes and knew I could find them in successful men who lead collaboratively.

My research began with in-depth, face-to-face behavioral interviews with executive men identified by executive women colleagues as being collaborative leaders. They included CEOs and COOs of healthcare systems and national managed care companies; senior VPs from international companies in the financial services industry, diversified technologies industry, and communications technologies industry; CEOs in non-profit clinical and educational services; a CEO of a major publishing company; and a general counsel from the transportation industry. It was a pleasure and privilege to talk with these men and learn about their lives and their experiences as senior leaders.

What my interviews revealed is a common thread of traits among collaborative male leaders in business who have learned to blend what are considered “feminine” characteristics into their leadership style. They, and men and women like them, are the leaders who drive the best business results, create healthy organizational cultures and change the face of leadership. They create an environment where other collaborative leaders—including, and in particular, women—can thrive.

From the analysis of my interviews with these collaborative male leaders, I distilled seven characteristics, grouped into two sets. 

One set is the foundational traits and underlying values that give one the personal efficacy to lead collaboratively. These characteristics are tempering ego, empathy, listening, and respecting all.

The other set is the collaborative organizational leadership abilities built on that foundation. These are driving mission and meaningfulness, cultivating shared accountability, and developing future leaders.

Together, these are the behavioral skills of the Men’s New Leadership Blueprint.TM 

I checked for face validity of these findings with a review board comprised of male colleagues who are executive coaches, business leadership professionals and strategy consultants. They found these characteristics to ring true to what they experience personally and to what they see with men who are clients and colleagues in leadership.

Personal Efficacy

Tempering Ego
Collaborative male leaders show strong self-assuredness that is a blend of confidence and humility. They go out of their comfort zone, dealing well with ambiguity and vulnerability. They are self-aware, adapting to make others comfortable, putting others at ease and creating a sense of relatability and approachability. They step aside to provide opportunities for others to take the stage, and they applaud their accomplishments.

Collaborative male leaders show their concern for people. They are demonstratively caring and perceptive while maintaining command of their own emotions. They pay attention to what others are feeling, considering what it’s like to “walk in their shoes,” and using that understanding as a basis for a functional, positive relationship. They look to improve others’ work experiences and help make their lives better.

Collaborative executive men pay attention to what others are saying, making a concerted effort to listen, to ask and to check their assumptions. They win over others by showing curiosity and interest, proactively reaching out to others and soliciting others’ opinions first before sharing their own. They watch for nonverbal cues, such as facial expressions and body language, while listening to what is actually being said in order to gain a more complete understanding.

Respecting All
Collaborative male leaders acknowledge others and get to know them, no matter their background or position on the corporate ladder. They go out of their way to engage people at all levels of the organization. They show high regard for all employees and specifically spell out to individuals why their roles are valued and what their contributions are to the organization. 

Organizational Leadership

Driving Mission and Meaningfulness
Collaborative executive men embrace their role as steward of the culture, believe strongly in what their organization stands for, and see its social importance. They inspire others to embrace the mission of the organization as a catalyst to unify the workforce. They reinforce the purpose of the organization, giving people a sense of contributing to a greater cause. They are thought leaders, speaking about issues such as diversity, inclusion and corporate governance. They foster an ethical culture and mentor the next generation of leaders with an eye for improving the culture of their industries.

Cultivating Shared Accountability
Collaborative male leaders cultivate accountability by making it a reciprocal imperative, by sharing goals and by holding themselves responsible for their peopleʻs success. They actively contract with others. They clarify roles and how each person contributes. They fuel others’ efforts by expressing confidence that they “can do it,” and they work alongside them to ensure that they do. They build a network of relationships to stay connected and monitor project progress, creating a process to maintain collaboration and accountability in a collegial way.

Developing Future Leaders
Collaborative male leaders take great pride in developing others. They have a keen eye for emerging talent. With their empathy and listening, they pick up on characteristics and strengths in others that may be missed by their peers. They give people a chance to “take the wheel,” and analyze failures and successes. These men take ownership of their own learning and continued development and encourage those who work with them to do the same. 

Excerpt courtesy of Post Hill Press. 

The Authors: 

Carol Vallone Mitchell, Ph.D., is cofounder of Talent Strategy Partners and author of Collaboration Code: How Men Lead Culture Change and Nurture Tomorrow’s Leaders and Breaking Through “Bitch”: How Women Can Shatter Stereotypes and Lead Fearlessly