3. Commit to courageous conversations.
When we bring people together who are different, it’s inevitable that we won’t always understand each other. This means we have to be more intentional in our communication. There have been many times when I have felt hurt or misunderstood, and I’ve been tempted to brush it under the rug. But team relationships with men have always gone better when I have chosen to be brave and have a courageous conversation.
Sometimes this means pointing out how they didn’t leave space for me or other women to speak. Or it may mean addressing the problem that the administrative tasks are being offloaded to the women on the team when it’s not appropriate. If we do so with care and clarity, it often reveals a blind spot that was unseen. In turn, I find my teammates feel more comfortable sharing how they feel and what may be confusing them in our working relationship.
4. Grow in emotional intelligence.
As leaders, it’s important that we are students of emotional intelligence and pursue growth in these competencies. One of my favorite books on the subject is Primal Leadership by Daniel Goleman, Richard Boyatzis, and Annie McKee. The four main categories of growth in emotional intelligence are self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, and relationship management. If we commit to being lifelong learners in these competencies, we will be able to enter situations with a greater ability to understand ourselves and others. We will be able to lead well with men, and it will be more likely that they will experience our partnership as loving and respectful even in tense leadership challenges.
5. Be quick to offer grace.
As female leaders, we bring many insecurities into our roles—and what causes us to feel insecure is unique to us and not necessarily tied to our gender. It’s a battle to press on and lead when we lack confidence in specific areas. We need a lot of grace as we grow and become more secure in our leadership.
It’s a mistake to assume that men aren’t facing the same struggle. The truth is, men have a lot of insecurities as well. Like us, they don't always realize how many of their actions stem from areas where they lack confidence. Men also need affirmation and specific and direct feedback so they can grow in their confidence. Even when actions are inappropriate, we need to be willing to discover what is behind the action, which is sometimes a lack of confidence. Offering grace doesn’t mean ignoring hurtful behaviors. However, we are all broken people in need of grace as well as honesty. Grace is a gift we can offer our teammates, especially our male coworkers, and it results in more effectiveness all around. There will always be more to learn on this journey, but I know for sure: We really can’t live well or lead well without each other!