Copyright © 2008 Ed Bagley
Female executives who are bold and aggressive do not rise up the corporate ladder as quickly as you may think. Bold and aggressive traits do not naturally match well with intelligence and savvy. Given the fact that there are many more male executives than female executives, being bold and aggressive gets fewer promotions on the way up.
Female executives who use a self-confident but much softer, indirect approach do not highlight or reinforce any pre-conceived notions that they might be too bold, too aggressive or too judgmental for a higher position.
Remember that men, and especially male executives, do not like aggressive, judgmental women (it may even remind them of their wife in some cases). The expression is: Behind every successful man is a strong and cooperating woman, and we surely do hope it is his wife because too often it is his mistress.
Men like women who are assertive but not aggressive. A man sees an intelligent, assertive woman as completing him, not challenging him. Remember that men do not know how to handle aggressive women, they do not have any centuries-old database other than that the man leads, the woman follows. Their ego does not allow them to treat aggressive women any differently than men.
If they perceive that you are aggressive, they will treat you as they do men, they will rip out your jugular vein and walk over you to the next corporate competitor in the boardroom. Here are some things to consider:
First, female executives should never, under any circumstances, devalue any core competencies of a male executive. Try to reinforce any good trait that a male executive has that you have.
Why? Because he psychologically cannot deny himself. If he is detail-oriented and you are detail-oriented, and he criticizes you for being so, he is criticizing himself during the process. Male executives who are smart and successful will not criticize you in this circumstance. He will rather like you for being so as well.
Second, if the male executive has weak people skills, make it your business to bring a wonderful (not challenging but supporting), uplifting, positive presence to his office. In other words, COMPLEMENT his weakness, just as he would want his spouse to do.
Some guys are perceived as a man’s man, like Arnold Schwarzenegger and Howie Long. They ooze macho. They are good guys, nice guys, but if you even think about testing them, they will knock you on your backside. You know better than to even try. Their image is secure and intact.
There are some male executives who appear secure and smart in what they are doing, but they cannot handle harsh criticism or ANY criticism. Their ego is that fragile.
If you criticize them harshly and embarrass them in the process, they will quietly quit what they are doing and find a reason to go elsewhere. Schwarzenegger and Long will see to it that your face gets messed up as they move on WITHOUT you.
It is wise to know the difference between these two types of male executives.
Just as in writing resumes, female executives who get to the top of the corporate world know it is not so much what they say, but how they say what they say that counts most.