Gender Differences in Leadership
Politics can be an ugly business. The infighting, the backstabbing, the name calling—sounds a lot like middle school, frankly.
In an episode of the wonderful political drama of the late 1990s and early 2000s, The West Wing, a character says there are two things you never want the public to see you make: laws and sausages. I’m paraphrasing from memory, but the point was that things can get messy, and the process used to cobble together bits of who-knows-what was less than appetizing.
I thought of that quote when I read a recent CBS News story about women in the United States Senate. It was about the camaraderie the 20 current female members of the Senate have with one another—regardless of their political affiliation. The underlying point of the article was that these women get things done, which was in stark comparison to their male counterparts in the Senate. In fact, as the article states, “An internet startup called Quorum crunched the numbers and found that women in the Senate are better dealmakers, and get more done than their male counterparts.”
I was not at all surprised by this. The female Senators interviewed stated that their relationships with one another are a little bit fuller than with male Senators. They said they have friendships and build trust with one another. They get to know one another and develop a real relationship with each other.
The network that these women forge is pivotal in helping them get things done. We hear it all the time in the corporate world—it’s who you know and who is in your network that will help you the most. What I find so wonderful is that this story is about these women building a rich network with their female counterparts for the sake of governing and doing their jobs as United States Senators. It’s not for their own career advancement or for their own political gain—it’s so they can do what they were elected to do.
At River, we’ve worked with a number of organizations to help them build mentoring and learning networks, and what we’ve seen is that the Women’s Networks are typically the strongest employee resource groups (ERGs) that they have. Within my own company, I am fortunate to work with some amazing women who are results-oriented, relationally driven, compassionate team players. They think about others, they are genuine in their conversations, they strive to make our company a success, and they inspire all of those around them with their attitudes and brilliance. These are smart ladies who I am honored to call friends as well as colleagues.
As for those Senators, I don’t know if it’s a lack of egos, a results-oriented mindset, or an acknowledgement that we are all in this together and can’t do it alone, but these women have tapped into something magnificent and powerful. I’m sure there are still many things they disagree on in terms of politics, but these amazing individuals do not let their political differences get in the way of them actually doing their jobs. We could all learn a lesson from them.