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Male Leadership In Crisis - Part Two

By Barrington H. Brennen, June 2001, 2001


Parts One    Part Two    Part Three    Part Four


Question: Dear Sir: I think there is a male leadership crisis in the world today.  What can we do to get more male leaders in our homes, communities, schools, and churches?

Answer: Before I discuss the sociological implications and the solutions to the male-leadership-in-crisis-syndrome, I must establish a philosophical base. Last week, while composing at the computer the first article in this series, I accidentally typed "Male leadership IS Crisis," instead of "Male leadership IN Crisis." Then I wondered: "Is there some truth to both of these statements?" As I pondered that thought, I realized that there is truth to both statements. First, because male leadership is IN crisis, inevitably, male leadership IS crisis. That is many male cold leadership styles are causing agony and confusion in the home, church and society. Secondly, male leadership IS crisis when it is power based rather than influence based. Thirdly, male leadership IS crisis when it is controlling rather than transforming. That is, too many male leaders are contented with telling the family to drink water rather than teaching them the benefits of water. Finally, male leadership IS crisis when it emphasizes independence rather than interdependence. That is, too many men thrive to be depended upon as providers, instructors, know-it-all-doers, rather than facilitating an interactive dialogue and learning process. These are some of the basic reasons why male leadership is IN crisis.

As articulated last week, some would have us believe that male leadership is in crisis because there is an overwhelming increase of female leadership in the society. This is not the case. It is so because because males have failed to become team players with females. It has occurred because men sought power over women rather than having power with them. Now that women also have significant power, many men feel threatened. The crisis is becoming more pronounced, in that fewer men are taking personal development, advanced education, and spiritual values seriously, leaving those fields wide open to women. The truth is that today there are not enough women in "high places." We tend to forget that men exclusively held these high positions in some societies for centuries. It is true that there are women today who would be glad to see all the men disappear from leadership positions in society. That concept would be as counter productive as when there were all male leaders. Our goal should be to become a more integrated society–


"Some would have us believe that male leadership is in crisis because there is an overwhelming increase of female leadership in the society. This is not the case. It is so because because males have failed to become team players with females. It has occurred because men sought power over women rather than having power with them."


where a person would not be judged by one’s gender but by one’s integrity of character, potential, and ability.


In the business arena, many giant firms are moving away from the traditional management style that focused on control and manipulation by de-emphasizing the hierarchal administrative structure and balancing it with a more personal, humanistic style of management. In the 2000 edition of Educational Administration Concepts and Practices, Fred Lunenburg and Allan C. Ornstein help us understand the traditional styles of corporate leadership: (1) Democratic leadership: Leaders encouraged group discussion and decision making. Subordinates were informed about conditions affecting their jobs and were encouraged to express their ideas and make suggestions. (2) Authoritarian leadership: Leaders were very directive and allowed no participation in decisions. They structured the complete work situation for their subordinates. Leaders took full authority and assumed full responsibility from initiation to task completion. (3) Laissez-faire leadership: Leaders gave complete freedom to the group and left it up to subordinates to make individual decisions on their own. Essentially, leaders provided no leadership.

These leadership styles have had very little to no effect on production. Within these styles of leadership, males reigned supreme. However, corporate leaders have learned that for survival, greater productivity, and personal job satisfaction (which improves productivity), they need to remove the barriers and become more inclusive. Thus, over the past decades new styles of leadership have emerged. Fred Lunenburg and Allan C. Ornstein list them this way: (1) Supportive leadership. A supportive leader is friendly, approachable, and concerned with the needs, status, and well-being of subordinates. A supportive leader treats subordinates as equals and frequently goes out of her way to make the work environment more pleasant and enjoyable. (2.) Participative leadership. A participative leader consults with subordinates concerning work-related matters, solicits their opinions, and frequently attempts to use subordinates' ideas in making decisions. (3) Achievement-oriented leadership. An achievement-oriented leader sets challenging goals for subordinates, emphasizes excellence in performance, and shows confidence in subordinates' ability to achieve high standards of performance. (5) Transformational leadership focuses on leaders who have exceptional impact on their organizations. Transformational leaders motivate their subordinates to do more than they originally expected to do by (a) raising followers' levels of consciousness about the importance and value of designated outcomes and about ways of reaching them; (b) by getting followers to transcend their own self-interest for the sake of the team, organization, or larger polity; and (c) by raising followers' need levels to the higher-order needs, such as self actualization, or by expanding their portfolio of needs.


What is the relevance of corporate leadership styles to home management? First of all, the concept of the role of a man and woman in the marriage relationship and the home is invariably transmitted into the larger society. Men who believe that a woman should be controlled and manipulated in the home also believe that she should be controlled and manipulated in the workplace. In the corporate world, growth and productivity have become a greater reality through gender inclusion and the removal of the power scale of inequity. Yet, within the family structure, too many want to maintain the old-fashioned, stagnant formula for family development and interaction. While corporations are moving towards referring to their employees as "team players and followers," too many today are still wanting our women to "remember their places." Perhaps this is causing a greater havoc on the home and family life. For in the workplace, women are treated as equal partners and decision makers; but in home, they are still treated as subordinates, cooks, and pot washers. Now that’s a crisis! A key characteristic of the male leadership syndrome is the reluctance to relinquish traditions that divide us. I challenge men to become co-transformational leaders with their wives in their homes.

David and Amy Olson in their book "Empowering Couples" reports on a survey done with more than one million couples from over fifteen countries. The survey revealed that at least 93 percent of married couples are unhappy when they have problems sharing leadership equally. This was stated as the number one stumbling block to happiness in marriage. Why, then, do we refuse to re-examine our approach to marriage relationships and our view of gender equality? When we begin to solve this problem, we will be on the way to solving the male leadership syndrome.

Barrington Brennen is a marriage and family therapist and a board certified clinical psychotherapist (USA).  Email: question@soencouragemengt.org  or call 242 327 1980.




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April 26, 2000, TAGnet/NetAserve / Network Solutions

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