Hormones and Leadership
I’ll bet you don’t generally think of these two things in the same sentence, but…
Leadership and hormones are a very hot topic!
(And I’m not talking about hot flashes.)
So let me explain. But first, let’s go back a few years. In the old school model of leadership, a leader had to be a “man’s man.”
A tough guy. A bit of a lone wolf whose aggressive nature would get him to the top.
The world has changed and that type of men is already a dying breed. (That’s a good thing.) However, as these macho males decrease and as more women step into leadership roles, there is a genuine concern that many of these women do not, and will not, bring the best of being a woman to the role, but rather they are spending their time and energy trying to out-macho the guys who lead/ruled before her.
This in my mind will be an unequivocal disaster. The last thing we need as we look for new models of leadership is women trying to out-testosterone the guys!
Before we go any further, I want to set something straight…
I welcome the day we have far more women leaders. However, these need to be women who embrace their power as WOMEN!
Recently I posted a note on Facebook about hormones and moods. It’s created a bit of a buzz and some deepening of questions. What was really quite surprising to me was how little both men and women understood the impact of hormones on their mood, behavior and ultimately on their leadership.
So let’s create some clarity about hormones. Beginning with Testosterone.
Despite what you may have heard from uninformed people the word “testosterone” is not limited to images of over-sized body builder showing off their biceps. Testosterone is a natural occurring hormone in both men and women’s bodies. (Obviously much larger amounts occur in men than in women.)
Now to understand testosterone, we first have to talk about women’s hormonal systems. We (society) like to poke fun at women and the moods they go through during their menstrual cycles. However, what what you probably didn’t know is that men also go through their own monthly cycles, called “andro cycles.” (What this means is that for a period of time each month men are “bitchy”/”aggressive.”)
So back to women. Peaking in PMS, but lasting through ovulation, a woman’s body produces more testosterone. (Remember, women have it too) and most women’s moods (despite the ignorant beliefs) improve almost immediately after their menstrual cycle starts. This is due to a flood of other hormones that I won’t go into them here that result in the excess testosterone being canceled out. (Even though she may still be suffering menstrual cramps and a myriad of other stuff no man would be able to cope with.)
It’s the same with men. There is a spike in testosterone in a man’s body every month, which makes them feel more aggressive and “macho.” But, that’s only half the story. There is also a polar spike in estrogen, the “female hormone,” at a different time of the month because, just like women have testosterone, men have estrogen, as well. This hormone is more likely to make men more empathetic, compassionate and nurturing. (All very important characteristics of the new leader… within reason.)
To put this in context, of leadership…
During the spike in testosterone or leadership hormones, both men and women become more aggressive. In men, our society may see this as violence or rage. However, it may also be seen as a man being assertive and determined. However, because of the dysfunction of our society, we are more likely to see this behaviour in a woman as being a “ball busting bitch.”
Bear with me because I’m going to show you how as we age, hormones change and how that effects us.
As I am sure you are aware, women can become peri-menopausal and then menopausal due to a change in hormones. (Lowering of estrogen and an increase in testosterone results in the drying up of vaginal fluids and the increase in facial hair. Lots of stuff most guys do not know or for that matter want to know)
You may be saying that you know all that. But here’s something you probably didn’t know:
As men get older they to become peri-adro-pausal and then andropausal. Just the opposite of what happens to women. Their testosterone lowers and their estrogen increases. In men this results in their becoming lethargic, losing their sex drive, and experiencing general erectile dysfunction (hence Viagra). Some guys will even develop a deep depression as their male ego becomes as soft as their libido.
If that’s not enough, things can get even worse. At this point, there is usually a softening of the body in general and many men begin to develop gynecomastia (also known as “moobs” or “man boobs”). This is one of the reasons intense compound weight training is so important for older men, as it reverses this effect.
However, along with the not-so-nice physical changes, some emotional changes that can be very beneficial also start to occur. It is at this time that we are likely to see a softening of things, the once hard exterior suddenly start to melt away. For instance, we may see it in a father who has never shown any remorse or any “softer” feeling who will suddenly allow himself to cry in front of his adult children.
It is my hope this has cleared some things up. Please, keep in mind the next time you (woman or man) are feeling particularly aggressive for no apparent reason, it’s perfectly normal. It’s Mr. Testosterone flowing into your blood stream. So give him a healthy outlet. Go punch a bag. Beat a pillow or write a nasty letter in your journal. It’s always going to be better outcome than screaming at a co-worker!
And conversely, if you are feeling more emotional, that’s normal, too. It’s Ms. Estrogen paying a visit. So accept her and allow yourself to feel those softer, gentler feelings. Again your journal is a great place to let it all out.
Both states are normal. And both play a role in the new leadership. But that’s for another blog.
P.S. Just because these things are happening in the body doesn’t give someone a get out of jail free card. We are all responsible for our moods and behaviors even if they are a result of increased testosterone or increased estrogen.
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