Leadership is a multifaceted role that requires a diverse set of skills and qualities. Female leaders, in particular, have shown a unique ability to focus on the problems before any sympathy is given to the affected person. This approach, characterized by sympathy for the problem and not just the person, demonstrates a keen understanding of the broader context and a commitment to finding effective solutions. In our newest research, Here Come the Girls, we will explore why female leaders excel at this aspect of leadership.
Understanding the Difference: Sympathy for the Problem vs. Sympathy for the Person
Before delving into why female leaders excel at sympathizing with problems before they focus on the individual, it’s important to clarify the distinction between the two concepts:
- Sympathy for the Person: This involves understanding and sharing the feelings and emotions of an individual experiencing a challenge or difficulty. While important, it may sometimes lead to a focus on the individual’s emotions rather than addressing the underlying issue.
- Sympathy for the Problem: This approach involves recognizing and understanding the root causes of a problem or challenge and working to find effective solutions. It prioritizes problem-solving and is less centered on individual emotions.
The Strengths of Female Leaders in Demonstrating Sympathy for the Problem
As we have seen in countless interviews of elite female leaders, the key lies in their ability to be sympathetic to the problem and then empathetic to the person. Then, they are willing to meet them where they are – the ‘grey area’ where most men are afraid to traverse. The process is supported by females who expand on their unique abilities to excel in the following. Each of which is trainable to men.
- Analytical Thinking: Female leaders often exhibit strong analytical thinking skills. They can break down complex issues into constituent parts, identify patterns, and discern the underlying causes. This analytical approach helps them understand the problem at a deeper level. It might take a few extra minutes to get there, but it saves a world of time on the other side.
- Big-Picture Perspective: Female leaders tend to possess a big-picture perspective. They consider the broader implications and consequences of a problem, recognizing that addressing the problem effectively is essential for the well-being of the entire organization or community. This is particularly true when people’s lives are affected. Female leaders tend to have a broader understanding of the impact their decision-making has on the lives of others.
- Pragmatism and Solutions-Oriented Mindset: Female leaders are often praised for their pragmatic approach to problem-solving. They focus on finding practical, actionable solutions rather than dwelling solely on the emotional aspects of the situation. This approach is instrumental in driving progress and achieving goals, but only after sympathy for the problem has led to empathy for the people involved.
- Collaboration and Inclusivity: Female leaders frequently emphasize collaboration and inclusivity when tackling challenges. They understand that diverse perspectives can lead to more innovative and effective solutions. By involving various stakeholders and encouraging open dialogue, they create an environment conducive to problem-solving. This also opens the doors for a broader range of insights and collateral opportunities some men might have missed.
- Resilience: Female leaders often demonstrate resilience in the face of adversity. They are more likely to persistently pursue solutions to problems persistently, even when faced with obstacles. This determination and resilience can be instrumental in overcoming challenges.
Real-World Examples of Female Leaders Embracing Sympathy for the Problem
- Indra Nooyi: As the former CEO of PepsiCo, Indra Nooyi was known for her problem-solving prowess. She navigated challenges such as shifting consumer preferences and sustainability concerns by focusing on innovation and finding solutions aligned with the company’s long-term goals.
- Angela Merkel: During her tenure as Chancellor of Germany, Angela Merkel demonstrated a remarkable ability to address complex political and economic challenges facing Europe. Her pragmatic approach and commitment to finding solutions were instrumental in maintaining stability in the region.
- Ursula von der Leyen: Ursula von der Leyen, the President of the European Commission, has shown her dedication to addressing pressing global issues such as the ever-changing geography of Europe, political tensions, war, and the COVID-19 pandemic. A focus on problem-solving and collaboration among EU member states characterizes her leadership style.
Female leaders have consistently shown their ability to sympathize with the problem before they engage in empathy with the person. Their analytical thinking, big-picture perspective, solutions-oriented mindset, collaborative approach, and resilience make them well-suited to address complex challenges effectively. While empathy for individuals is crucial, understanding, analyzing, and resolving problems is equally vital in leadership roles. Female leaders exemplify the strength of combining empathy with a commitment to finding lasting solutions for the benefit of organizations, communities, and society.
In the end, the formula is simple:
- Show sympathy for the problem, not the person
- Show empathy to the person and those affected
- Lean in to meet the person where they are – in the grey. Wrestle with them to shine a light into their hearts and minds. Empower them with your very being.
Women tend to solve the problem by shining a light inside the hearts and minds of those involved. This opens the door for empowerment and self-discovery, creating a future of collaborative and creative team members seeking new worlds to conquer.
This article is designed to reveal the findings of my newest academic study: Here Come the Girls. It is a doctoral paper set to be published next month. The commercial book will be released this spring.
Watch out, world; I have women taking over global leadership between 2028 and 2032.
If you have any questions, please feel free to reach out anytime.