Men in leadership - is there a crisis? What's the issue?

Do you really know where you stand today? Have you lost your way? Do you know where you fit in?

There has been a lot of justifiable concern about how some men in leadership positions have inappropriately treated women (I’m referring here to campaigns such as #metoo) and discussions about toxic masculinity, gender equality etc. This all can be very confusing. Maybe you think these concerns and discussions don’t affect you. They do.

They do, because they go to the fundamentals of what it is to be a human being – of being authentic, being genuinely connected with others, of working and developing together in our organisations and contributing to our communities. These fundamentals are irrespective of gender and gender identity.

Many men strongly identify with the masculine, being male, being a man – it is how they define, and think of, themselves. This sense of self can come from their male influencers earlier in life and is perpetuated by stories they hear about ‘being a man’, rather than being genetic or hormonal. There can be a constant tension between how men feel they ‘should’ think and act and how they actually feel, think and act. Some men act in ways that they have learnt watching other men act, often badly e.g. some men in leadership have learnt to be angry and persecute others in order to get things done. Some men are simply lost and don’t know how to lead and be a man as well.

On the flip side, many successful men in leadership know exactly who they are, where they stand, where they fit in and where they are going and how they are effectively leading their people. What are they doing right?

If you feel you have lost your way, there are some ways for you to start getting back on track:

  • Consider what it means for you to be a human being, apart from ‘being a man’
  • Challenge what you have learnt through your life about what ‘being a man’ is - are there things you have done in the past that may have worked then, but just don’t work anymore?
  • Acknowledge your human strengths and acknowledge the strengths you value in other people
  • Act on being more ‘human’ first – forget trying to ‘be the man’ or ‘Mr Fix-it’ - take time to genuinely connect with yourself and with the people around you – I have no doubt they will welcome it.

I’m not saying getting back on track to being human is simple - so I encourage you to take small steps. It may be difficult to think outside the traditional ‘being a man’ box. Indeed, we have all been told lots of ‘be a man’ stories during our lives and we often keep repeating those same stories to ourselves. It’s often difficult to reflect on the contrast between what you feel authentically on the inside and how you ‘are man’ to the outside world. Challenge yourself. Talk to others about it.

This commentary only touches the surface about men in leadership to stimulate conversation. I’m keen to know your thoughts and your experiences so I can offer more on the topic or help you sort your sh** out! Contact me if this has peaked your interest and you want to know more.

Focus: Tim’s focus is on ‘big picture’ strategy coaching, both individually and for teams. He also has a passion for change management and leadership development. He welcomes opportunities to develop people in both public and private sector.

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