The New Lean In Guide For Men. Yes, You Need To Read This Today

Posted: March 27, 2017

We’ll all seen the Lean In guide for women and the hundreds of views written around it. Here’s something different: a Lean In guide for men, as women take over workplaces.

The winds of change are already here. I am getting to see more women in leadership (not as many as men, but definitely better than what it used to be earlier). The few of us who survived the obstacle course, are now in the winning laps. And sadly, men aren’t ready.

For anyone used to male leadership styles, adopting to working styles of women leaders can be hard. I can empathise with that. But, ignoring that, and hiding your heads in the sand isn’t going to make women leaders go away. We’re here to stay for good. So it might help to learn and adapt.

Here is my attempt to throw some light on how men and women deal with day to day situations at work. Emotional, psychological, and behavioural differences change how men and women respond. Being aware of this can help men adapt to women leadership styles. What’s usually prescribed is for women leaders to turn into men. Duh!

Meetings over Bonding

Here is how I’ve seen meetings where primary stakeholders are all/mostly men.
Big loud welcomes, handshakes, back patting. Small talk. Jokes. Some sexist jokes. Let’s get to business. Tune off, while some junior (usually woman) takes notes. Big camaraderie show. Let’s go for smoke/drink banter. More banter. End meeting. Actually go drink/ smoke/have a coffee. Forget about the meeting until someone asks.

I’m overwhelmed when the big loud welcomes happen. I usually shrink and hide in the background. I start squirming about, where the small talk ends and jokes begin. I breathe when ‘Let’s get to business’ happens. I start squirming again when stakeholders tune off. I want to run out of the room when the rest of the show is on.

Here is how meetings with women as primary stakeholders happen.

Subtle welcome, big smiles, handshakes. Small talk. Let’s get to business. Let’s put a timeline on this and sign up (woman leader writes this up herself). Small talk. End meeting. Offer a coffee/ drink/smoke. Follow up and keep track.

Now here is a problem. Men seem to prioritise buddy bonding over getting things done. Women seem to prioritise getting work done over bonding. Besides, men don’t know how to buddy bond with women. If they knew, they wouldn’t be cracking sexist jokes, you know. Women approach this entire meeting ritual with a “let me get this done” approach. We find any distractions annoying.

Of course, women in leadership can’t silently squirm at the annoying distractions. They’re going to bring order to meetings, cut to the chase and get to the task at hand. The sooner men accept this and adapt the better. So, men, rein in your craving for buddy bonding and get to business faster.

Chest thumping and power rituals

Alpha male leadership styles with a high degree of social bonding and aggressive display of emotion are the accepted norm (the PayTM video, is a good example). You’ve seen different degrees of this in your organization level all hands meetings, I bet. Organizations have offered much leeway to chest thumping and frenzy inducing speeches. All in the name of ‘Inspiration’ and ‘cult’ure building.

Tch, tch … so tribal.

I have to admit, I haven’t seen organization level meetings headed by women. Not yet. But even women leaders of ‘cults’ or women politicians don’t seem to express such levels of aggression. So I doubt if this level of loud ‘inspiration’ is going to come from women in leadership. So, if you’re walking into an all hands, and don’t hear war cries, loud expletive sprinkled inspirational speeches, you’re being led by a woman.

So, men, if you depended on King Kong style chest thumping to heighten your loyalty towards the organization, time to find yourself another job, I guess.

Definition of done

Men and women carry different perspectives about work timelines. Women are thinking Thursday evening when they say Friday.

Men are thinking Monday morning, when they hear Friday.

The lower rung of software development consists primarily of single folks (men and women), fresh out of college or in early stages of career. They have time on hand. They possibly have no life outside of work. It’s a perk to hangout late nights or weekends at work. Free food, drinks, bonding.

While the women outgrow this phase once the family cycle kicks in, men continue to foster this even after they have a family. Besides men ‘settle down‘ later than women. So, they have a longer run pulling all nighters, and all weekenders.

Male leadership has always viewed this as dedication, appreciated, rewarded this behaviour. Most men have moved up the ladder doing just this.

However, women, who have climbed a few rungs of the corporate ladder approach this very differently. For me, any time spent away from my son (time that I could have spent with him) must be worthwhile. So, if I have to pull an all nighter, it has to be because I need to handle an earth shaking event, not an excuse for bad planning or poor foresight.

So, if you hear your lady boss tell you something needs to get done by Wednesday, then you better get it done by Tuesday evening. We have super low tolerance for immature, college grad behaviour from experienced folks. Thinking that your boss is being a bitch or must be her PMS is great for boys club conversations, but it isn’t going to get you any leeway with your boss.

So, up your game men. The women leadership is a different new regime. Learn to lean-in or fade out.

Top image via Pixabay

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An entrepreneur, software product strategist, blogger, speaker, I have over 16 years of experience in

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