By Kate Lanz, Neuropsychologist, leadership coach and author of “All the Brains in the Business: the engendered brain in the 21st Century Organisation.“
The Corona crisis is a wake-up call. It is waking us up to what we need to pay attention to if we are to live sustainable, healthy lives on this planet. It is waking us up to the kind of global leadership and global cooperation needed to ensure our human survival. The female brain is highly adapted to bringing the kind of attention and action needed now. We are seeing some shining examples of women leading well through this crisis (Germany and New Zealand) and some instances of the worst kind of dominant male behavior (USA).
Women express their power differently from men on the whole. Why? Differences in neural connectivity and hormones combine to shape differences in power behaviors. Modern brain scanning reveals neural connectivity in a female brain activating and engaging broadly across both hemispheres. Male brain connectivity runs with equal intensity from front to back, focused inside each hemisphere with little connection between both sides. Neurochemically women’s brains and bodies contain far greater quantities of oxytocin – the bonding hormone. For men, the quantities of testosterone are far higher. Under stress, men’s testosterone levels go up and oxytocin goes down. In women, it’s the opposite, the stress response increases oxytocin.
Because of this combo women and men tend to have a different ‘take’ on the world.
Put (over) simply women create solutions, men fix problems. Women by nature are, in general, more inclined to connect, collaborate, and communicate. Men with higher testosterone tend to care more about their place in the pecking order. None of these responses are 100% unique to either sex. It is always an individual blend with our life experiences shaping the basic biological underpinnings. But we all know that women and men generally have different ways of ‘going on’ in the world. It’s down to millions of years of evolution. And, as we are experiencing with COVID 19, you cannot argue with mother nature.
Right now, a broad collaborative connected perspective that sees the whole and that is not about competition, ego and turf wars is exactly what is required.
My recent research shows that many of the pre-COVID corporate cultures favor the more male brain, having been largely created by a certain kind of men for similar kinds of men. What I am seeing is that in the new world of working from home, more naturally female ways of leading are creating the space for neural diversity to speak up and find its voice. The women who were more often silent in the big London office meetings are speaking up online. So are the less alpha men along with the introverts. Power and status symbols have been stripped away. Homeworking is a great leveler and liberator. I am seeing some astonishing examples of great female leadership accessing the best of all the brains in the business.
COVID-19 has caused us to hit the pause button. To stop and think. Just like the impact of women coming into the workforce after WW2 we are experiencing the positive impact of a different kind of leadership at work. These corona days are allowing female power to shine. There will be no going back and the world will be better for it.
About the author:
Kate Lanz is the founder and CEO of mindbridge, a UK-based global coaching company specializing in the power of modern neuroscience and releasing latent brain potential at work. She is co-author of All the Brains in the Business: The Engendered Brain in the 21st Century Organisation (Palgrave Macmillan, 2020). Learn more at mindbridge.co.uk.