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October 05, 2010

So Much Good Stuff to Link to Today...

...so little time. Over at RIGHTNETWORK, Darleen Click responds to my earlier column on raising strong sons with a marvelous essay on raising strong daughters. I especially loved this:

Society focuses attention on boys’ nature – aggression – and how to control and channel it. Rarely does society address girls’ nature – emotionalism. Bullying and intimidation don’t just come by way of physical prowess; ask any woman about the social experience of junior high. Girls learn early on which emotional buttons to push.

When faced with a 50-decibel tsunami, remain calm. Quickly disengage until the screaming stops. Later on, discuss with her (without revisiting the triggering issue) the unacceptability of such behavior—while acknowledging the validity of her emotions. Spell out expected consequences if such behavior is continued while soliciting from her what strategies she should employ to remain calm in such situations. On the other hand—and this advice is aimed primarily at Dads— don’t fall for emotional manipulation. When she comes up to you with big puppy eyes and says, “Daaad-dy, can I …” you must realize that you are probably about to be had. Remember: if you can stand there and listen to your daughter scream “I hate you! I wish I was never born!” without turning into a quivering mass of goo, you are doing your job as a good and effective parent.

Whilst reading Darleen's essay, it struck me repeatedly that what girls need most is something I'd guess few people think of:

Leadership training.

I've had the same thought repeatedly with respect to the military's attempts to help spouses cope with the stresses and strains of deployment when the answer is right in front of them: teach leadership.

After years of feminism, we still aren't comfortable with the idea of women as leaders but in life women are called upon to be leaders all the time. That's what a mother is.

In many ways a wife is a leader too. She may not always be the head of the household, but she is almost invariably the person who ends up in charge of family dynamics - the person who sets the tone and ground rules, manages conflict and relationships, and resolves day to day crises.

Like boys, what little girls need most is discipline, self mastery, and loving guidance that helps them channel their natural strengths in a positive way and teaches them to overcome their natural weaknesses.

Anyway, great essay.

Posted by Cassandra at October 5, 2010 03:04 PM

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Cassandra....as usual, you're right on the money with the idea that young women need to be taught how to lead; particularly in today's society. Popular culture seems to think that women lead by being a "bitch" or stabbing people in the back....just check out "Mean Girls" or how the "public" reacts to the women on "Apprentice" or other so-called-reality shows. We owe more to our young women than to teach them that to get ahead you need to be unreliable, unethical, unpersonable, or just un-.... We should be teaching our young women how to succeed using their talents, intelligence, and work-ethic. Women do not need to be a bitch to be successful!

I agree with you that a mother and wife are leaders within their family, but as retired 0-6, I can tell you that women who try to lead by "mothering" those other than their children are not very successful. There is a fine line there that we're not teaching our young women, and that's a shame.

Posted by: lela at October 5, 2010 03:47 PM

...as retired 0-6, I can tell you that women who try to lead by "mothering" those other than their children are not very successful. There is a fine line there that we're not teaching our young women, and that's a shame.

Well I completely agree with you there!

I read once that natural leaders tend to be people who utilize both traditionally masculine and traditionally feminine qualities. It struck me as very true at the time, so I've paid close attention to leadership styles since then and have found it to be true more often than not.

That doesn't mean that successful female leaders are masculine nor that successful male leaders are feminine - just that they seem to be able to call upon *all* their facilities as the need and the circumstances dictate.

Posted by: Cassandra at October 5, 2010 03:59 PM

"people who utilize both traditionally masculine and traditionally feminine qualities"..There was a discussion at another blog about male & female styles at work...which led me to think about two excellent executives I know well, one male and one female, one late 40s and the other late 20s. The interesting thing is, their styles are actually quite similar: both are low-key, calm under pressure, creative, make good and appropriate use of their senses of humor, etc. But no one who knew them would doubt Jim's masculinity or Sandra's femininity.

Posted by: david foster at October 5, 2010 04:06 PM

I never had a daughter, but I did watch little girls for over 3 years (one of them full time 5 days a week).

One thing I learned: never reinforce manipulative behavior. And when the child is old enough, call her on it calmly.

It is just as natural for little girls to charm and beguile as it is for little boys to be aggressive. I never noticed that girls were any less prone to trying to dominate either their parents or other kids.

All human beings try to get their way. If they're not taught to fight fairly for what they want, they'll take the low road every time.

Girls have enormous power, but unlike male power it's indirect in nature (and therefore, IMO, harder to confront and counteract). A lot of boys are manipulative too - in fact, boys who are perceptive and emotionally intelligent can be incredibly manipulative.

One of my sons (ironically, the most stereotypically boyish one) was like that. He could spin me up faster than you could say Jack Robinson - I was constantly having to stop, remind myself that he was messing with my mind AGAIN, and come up with a different plan of attack :p

Posted by: Cassandra at October 5, 2010 04:07 PM

never reinforce manipulative behavior. And when the child is old enough, call her on it calmly.

My father NEVER let me get away with that kind of behavior. He taught me to be very direct (probably too direct, haha). But I grew up with the strong impression that being manipulative in order to avoid punishment or get my way was shameful and weak. I guess the hard part is finding the balance, as always...

Posted by: FbL at October 5, 2010 05:08 PM

As society grows larger and more complex, the need for leaders becomes astronomical. Such that there aren't enough candidates to fill the slots. Not nearly.

Posted by: Ymarsakar at October 6, 2010 07:37 AM

"As society grows larger and more complex, the need for leaders becomes astronomical"...OTOH, many management jobs have become so constrained and bureaucratized as to minimize their scope for leadership and their dependence on same. Store manager in a typical chain being a good example: compare the scope for leadership in this job the way it is typically defined from that of the independent store owner.

BizWeek just carried an article on a radical new innovation at Macy's: actually allowing store managers to submit requests for merchandise to carry which is relevant to their specific markets. This is apparently real new-age stuff in the chain retail world.

Posted by: david foster at October 6, 2010 07:58 AM

One thing I've seen as my husband moved up through the ranks is the difference between small unit leadership and large unit leadership. Not sure if it's discussed that way in the services or not.

Small unit leadership requires very different skills than large unit leadership. This is one reason that a lot of folks don't make the transition from enlisted to officer or from junior officer to senior officer successfully - the qualities that made them successful in small unit leadership are not the ones they'll need to succeed at large unit leadership.

Some are able to do both, but most people tend to be better at one or the other.

Posted by: Cassandra at October 6, 2010 08:45 AM

An employee of a store will be fired should he take initiative and act as a leader should in defending the store and its residents from armed robbers.

That's how humans are. They're so finicky and spineless over the littlest of things.

Small unit leadership requires very different skills than large unit leadership.

In a small unit like Leonidas' personal guard troop, he could command personally and micromanage to a great extent without impacting efficiency or chain of command. This is distributed leadership and authority.

In a larger unit, delegation through staff comes about. Such that the commander has various alter egos, in his staff, that carries out numerous activities as if they were he. This leaves the commander to digest and integrate information without spending time actually gathering and managing the information at each separate point.

This also relieves the need to micromanage, in the sense of knowing exactly what is going on with each person in the chain of command, because now he can know essentially the same thing but only from his alter ego.

Time wise, it's more efficient. Since the mind of a man deals better with focused issues where the important people are around him. Rather than skipping around in an army of 100,000, trying to remember "individual names" who are responsible for a thousand little pick pickety details.

Of course, the modern version of staff colleges does sometimes produce a McChrystal. Somebody who actually has time, somehow, to ride around in the battlefield getting to know individuals. But even he can't get information from anywhere near a significant portion of the AOs. Just one sample and he has to extrapolate from that sample to a general policy.

I think Napoleon was the last famous commander that commanded his armies personally, rather than using a command staff.

Posted by: Ymarsakar at October 7, 2010 04:53 PM