Queen Bee

Is the Queen Bee our feminine ideal of leadership? http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424127887323884304578328271526080496.html?mod=googlenews_wsj
No, what Peggy Drexler described in the “Tyranny of the Queen Bee” in Saturday’s Wall Street Journal is a caricature which fascinates but makes us cringe. Bullying is not leading. These are corporate psychopaths, narcissists, and borderlines with zero or seriously impaired empathy. They just happen to be women. They don’t kill people literally, but emotionally.  As with other psychological phenomena, there is a spectrum of behavior.  Some are worse than others. How did they get that way? Why do they rise? What about our organizational systems catalyze and support their ascension into leadership? Another intriguing question, if the data are right, is why are they tougher on women than men? Such leaders squelch empathy up, down, and across organizations…and innovation with it.

So, how does a leader build both empathy AND power?

Leaning in with integrity is a good start to building and preserving empathy. A crucial piece of this is finding ways to not lean away from family/community/humanity on the way up the leadership ladder (e.g., coordinating care with a partner, taking flexible roles, working part-time, working independently while raising young children http://currencyofempathy.wordpress.com/2013/02/27/having-it-all-step-1-staying-in-the-game/). Doing so builds the muscles of empathy. So does realizing that leadership is serving others and that people only truly follow those who help them grow – the real job of a leader.

Power, in my experience, comes from 4 sources: excellence, relationships, fear, and purpose.

  1. Excellence – work your tail off, learn a ton, and have great impact, especially early on. Let people know what you’ve done/can do. With performance and skills you earn flexibility.
  2. Relationships – work with the best people you can and build enduring relationships with them, as bosses, peers, subordinates, partners, and community members with common interests and concerns. With relationships come opportunities and the courage to move through fear.
  3. Fear – of the unknown, not some Queen Bee or tyrant! Face it and grow through it via choosing projects, jobs, Board seats, leadership programs, and other opportunities which are equal parts exciting and scary. Do things that make a big positive difference in collaboration with others.  With fear comes growth.
  4. Purpose – find the ways you can uniquely make the world a better place. It’s possible to work for a living without it, but it’s hard to lead without the passion of purpose.  With purpose comes discernment and clarity about how to spend time, especially when it becomes scarce.

Empathy + Power = Servant Leadership.  You know it when you see it.  We’re built for it.  What a wonderful, innovative world we would have if Servant Leaders made Queen Bees obsolete…although we wouldn’t mind if they left those shoes at the door on the way out!

Photo: Wall Street Journal, March 2, 2013, Saturday Essay: “The Tyranny of the Queen Bee” by Peggy Drexler

+ posts
An Antidote to Our Empathy Deficit Disorder


An Antidote to Our Empathy Deficit Disorder

Join our mailing list to receive the latest blogs, news and updates.

You have Successfully Subscribed!