This past summer, the New York Times ran the article, “No Doubts: Women are Better Managers.” It was an interview with Carol Smith, SVP and Chief Brand Officer for the Elle Group, the media company. She explained what she does to be a great manager and why women will always be better managers. This caused an interesting amount of backlash both through comments on that article and around the social web (sampling of comments below):
“Having worked for both men and women, I think I have seen the best and worst of both. Stop labeling people and start putting in the best people with good people skills and management experience. Where we go wrong is when politics interferes with judgment, including favoritism. I have worked for a lot of people who should never have gotten the job in the first place and it is impossible to get rid of them.” (Michelle, Ohio)
“Nonsense, most women are bad managers, just as most men are bad managers. Good managers are rare.” (RWeber, New York)
“It’s shocking that Ms. Smith is oblivious to her extreme form of gender bias with regard to her management style. Were she a man spouting off her ‘observations’ she would be demoted/fired and a press conference (a la Larry Summers-Harvard “Men are innately better at Math…”) would ensue with the hope of quelling the storm of angry voices; her leadership style would be denounced. The only thing Ms. Smith demonstrates is that playing the arrogant fool is an equal opportunity position for both sexes and Ms. Smith excels at it with true panache.” (Jeff, New York)
As a female project manager, maybe it would be a given that I would side with my own gender and support the idea that women make the best project managers. But I agree with many of those who voiced their opinions on the piece: it’s not about which bathroom you use, but what personality traits, organizational and leadership skills you posses.
So, what makes a good manager? We can definitely learn from what’s been written on the women vs. men debate, ignoring the fact that it’s reverse sexist, and just pick out what those good traits are:
- Collaborative nature: being comfortable working with a team and welcoming ideas from others.
- Strong multitasker: being able to focus on many things at once without losing sight of the big picture.
- Commanding respect without being intimidating/ being a team player: Carol Smith should get credit in the article for saying that she likes to sit in the middle of the table rather than the head, so that she can be an equal among her team members.
- Being willing to speak up and be the bearer of bad news when necessary.
- Handling different personality types gracefully: To get past any politics and be able to deal with all types of people at any level.
- To bend, but not break: To be flexible but also make firm decisions when needed.
- To be a risk taker, especially when it can benefit the project.
Of these mentioned, (and I’m sure there are more that can be added to the list) some can be tagged as typically female and others male. The most successful project managers, whether from Venus or Mars, will find a way be all of those things and more.
What traits do the best project managers in your organization posses?