Perhaps the hardest lesson of all for managers is that women outperform men – by default – when it comes to managing a day-in-the-life-of.
The past three weeks I have argued that parenting and family life outperform any MBA education when it comes to learning some essential leadership skills: taking care of oneself (I’m not kidding; even Peter Drucker wrote about it!), understanding and accepting how people develop, and setting boundaries. Finally, there is another leadership characteristic we can instantly learn from being a parent: it is how men and women’s brain architecture and hormones are fundamentally different.
Woman tend to think in webs of factors, not straight lines; therefore biological anthropologist Helen Fisher labeled this broad, contextual, feminine way of reasoning as ‘web thinking’. Men are more likely to focus their attention on one thing at a time. They tend to compartmentalize relevant material, discard what they regard as extraneous data, and analyze information in a more linear, causal path. Helen Fisher calls this male pattern ‘step thinking’.
Fisher’s evidence is further supported by biologists, who found that the female brain has more nerve cables connecting the two brain hemispheres. Apparently, the male brain is more compartmentalized, so sections operate more independently. On top of that, testosterone tends to focus one’s attention. Women’s lower levels of this hormone may contribute to their broader, more contextual view.
Ok – so we can learn about that in business school by having a philosophical group discussion. After that, we go home and we safely end our day while the kids are already in bed. Now consider the less conventional way of getting this point across: a young male human being coaxing three toddlers through dinner, spoon-feeding the youngest as the other two are bouncing off the walls – unwinding from a hectic day at school; getting them to bath, brushing teeth, bed time story, etc.
At the same time: phone is ringing, there is somebody at the door and you run out of diapers. I guarantee: learning occurs instantly and closing that skills gap takes far more courage than attending any widely accredited business course that pretends to get the same point across.
No need to paint a picture or to write a scientific article about it: women outperform men when it comes to splitting attention and multitasking. Nevertheless, do read this article by Helen Fisher on woman and leadership!