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Feminine leadership, or how to succeed in business without being one of the boys.

Feminine Leadership, or How to Succeed in Business Without Being One of the Boys.

Feminine Leadership, or How to Succeed in Business Without Being One of the Boys. Marilyn Loden. Times Books, $16.95. Now that women are being told that it's okay to dress pretty again and to stay home all day if that's what makes them happy, the time is probably ripe for a book celebrating the uniquely "feminine' qualities of women in management. Still, it's startling to hear a woman talk about women in sweepingly sexist terms. After interviewing what one must assume was an extremely limited number of women in business, Marilyn Loden concludes, "Women are more likely to stress cooperation over competition, teamwork over hierarchical structures, intuitive rather than exclusively rational reasoning, and an emphasis on long-term quality gains over short-term successes.' Next she blames all of the ills of American industry--including productivity losses and massive trade deficits--on men, whose singleminded emphasis on giving orders and acting tough apparently is at the root of worker alienation and the overly strong U.S. dollar.

Over the years I have had the following bosses (among others): an emotional small business owner who elicited hard work and loyalty through a combination of warmth and occasional temper tantrums; a mousy entrepreneur whose business failed because of insufficient attention paid to the books; a flinty-cool government appointee who worshipped schedules and hated dealing with subordinates; and an intuitive yet easily distracted bank president who once invested five hours of the top brass's time in a discussion of the company Christmas card. So, now guess: which of them was male and which female?* And so what? Never mind praising women in management because they supposedly have cornered the market on intuition and team spirit; how about a book for both sexes on how to be a better boss?

* Respectively: male, male, female, female.

When Loden isn't lumping all women together as kind and caring (and all men as remote and impersonal), she is dancing around the topic of sex discrimination. Instead of being angry at men for discriminating against women, she rebukes women for attempting to compete in the male power structure on male terms. Glossing over the powerful cultural influences that contribute to sexual stereotypes, she asserts that women are born different--and "vive la difference!'

It's hard to say what's sadder-- that the masculine leadership style can so often be obtuse and insensitive or that this longtime management expert is asking women to help improve the workplace not by being more competent but by being more womanly. Loden says she has identified a "groundswell of interest in the feminine leadership style developing among men and women in business who recognize the important role it can play in improving productivity, encouraging innovation and raising employee morale.' Most people I know simply would like to work for a boss with charisma who knows how to tap people's skills and give them a personal stake in the future of the enterprise.
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Author:Baldwin, Deborah
Publication:Washington Monthly
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Dec 1, 1985
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