Why Can't a Woman be More Like a Man

an article by Barb McEwen

In My Fair Lady, Henry Higgins laments, “Why can’t a woman be more like a man?”


Why can’t a woman be more like a man?
Men are so honest, so thoroughly square.
Eternally noble, historically fair.
Who, when you win, will always give your back a pat.
What can’t a woman be like that?

This is question many men continue to ask themselves.

However, in her book Hardball For Woman, Pat Hiem challenges this idea by saying, “You don't have to act like a man to succeed in business for you will always be judged as a woman.”

How true, how true!

We all know women who have had some degree of success only to make the mistake of taking on male attributes. Instead of becoming assertive and persuasive they become aggressive and intolerant of ideas different from their own. We call these women with sharp elbows – and the truth is that behaving like a man doesn’t work.

Successful women executives understand what it takes to get ahead. They make it their business to understand the male business mind at work and consequently don’t make common mistakes that will interfere with their career progress.

Why Women Leaders Don't Want to Be Like a Man

A recent study by Caliper, a Princeton-based management consulting firm, compared the leadership style of women and men, specifically focusing on personality qualities and underlying gender difference. The results show:

Women leaders possess strong people skills that enable them to read situations accurately and take in information from all sides.

This willingness to see all sides of a situation enhances their persuasive ability. They can zero in on someone’s objections or concerns, weigh them appropriately, address them effectively and incorporate them into the grander scheme of things.

These women were able to bring others around to their point of view or alter their own point of view – depending upon the circumstances and information they uncover. They can do this because they genuinely understand and care about where others are coming from so that the people they are leading feel MORE understood, supported and valued.

The males leaders, on the other hand, differed considerably. They:

Tended to start from their own point of view. Because they were not flexible or willing to take the time to interact with others, the male leaders tended to force their perspective and tried to convince others through the strength of their position, rather than actual persuasion.

"The male leaders," says Dr. Greenberg, "ran the risk of not necessarily convincing people to agree with them so much as pushing their point of view."

The difference in leadership styles between men and women starts with listening.

Not just listening to form an answer, but really listening, learning to probe effectively. In essence, good leaders learn the “art of the question.” After all leadership is basically about developing relationships and the ability to get things done through others.

Here is what one of my clients has to say,

“Barb has had me practicing effective listening and probing skills for over a year and it is amazing to see how this has become part of my management style. I continue to be surprised by the number of people who have commented on my ability to help individuals and groups clarify their own positions. I’ve also learned to encourage people to participate who otherwise would not.

Barb often talks about the 3 C’s – the necessity of “Connecting” with others -- to build and enhance relationships; to ask succinct and probing questions in order to “Clarify” the situation – to fully understand an issue. You can see the importance once you understand that without Connecting, without Clarifying you cannot gain “Commitment”. PJ

As this client says, this is not a skill that is developed overnight but there is no time like the present to get started. In our upcoming telephone workshop, Same Workplace / Different Realities we will share many of the secrets successful business people understand. Our goal is to help women make a difference in their life so that you too can become as successful as these women in the study.

I encourage you to sign up now to learn skills and increase your career success.


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Barb McEwen is a Master Executive Coach and Organizational Strategist who works with corporations and individuals worldwide. As founder of 20/20 Executive Coaching and 20/20 Executive Women she has spent the past twelve years working with high potential individuals to help them hone their leadership and management skills. Contact Barb at