Coalition Building?

A theory that I have been thinking about while at my internship site over the past couple of weeks is gender in leadership. In theories and models, we discussed the various ways that men and women may differ in their style when it comes to leading groups, but something that has stuck out to me the most is the way that the two form relationships. Dr. vonRuden stressed that men were more prone to forming larger coalitions, making more surface level relationships with a wide array of people. In this case, relationships are easily made and just as easily broken. Conversely, women are, in theory, more prone to developing more one-on-one relationships involving fewer people. These relationships are stronger, deeper, and not as easily broken, but they are hard to form. 

In my workplace, it seems that this is the case. For example, I work under a direct supervisor, another woman, and we have a lot of contact throughout the workday. There is another woman who serves in the same role as my supervisor to another intern. We each have much stronger relationships with our direct supervisors that the other interns that do not. But, it is more than that. We have more of a professional friendship rather than a polite work relationship. Conversely, another person in the office, a man, has an intern he is directly responsible for like mine is for me but has not formed a close relationship with her. Instead, he tends to float around the office and talk with everyone and knows each of us about the same. My relationship with him is much more surface level and I have never had a conversation with him past how my day was going. It does not mean that we have any animosity or a bad relationship by any means, he simply spends more of his time engaging with everyone. Generally, the women in my office tend to have more one on one relationships with a small group of people than the men. 

Insights that I gained from this during my internship experience was that I should not expect everyone to want to be a type of friend to me. At first, I found it slightly odd that I seemed to be making more of a connection with only a few people even though I thoroughly enjoy everyone I work with. After reflecting on my Theories and Models class more, it made more sense because I learned that different leaders can have different styles and that was the case here. Upon even further reflection I think that this theory does help my organization, specifically in the outreach that they do. When they go on outreach meetings, usually one man and one woman go, and last week I also got to accompany them. I noticed that generally the man will walk into the room and make a good first impression on whomever it is, and then the woman will go in after and solidify the relationship throughout the meeting. It seems effective because it caters to both leadership styles in this theory, and usually the outreach meetings (at least since I have been there) have generally been successful. 

One thought on “Coalition Building?

  • July 10, 2019 at 3:07 pm

    Interesting observations; so in sending both a male and female member of the organization, they are able to accomplish both broad relationships as well as deeper relationships. Would be interesting to know how they came to the conclusion to send a mixed gender pair out for meetings; if they based that decision on some understanding of gender-related leadership dynamics? Or perhaps it is just a coincidence? You might explore that a bit more and if indeed the practice was not explicit and did not grow out of some understanding about gendered leadership roles, you might be able to share some of your expertise on the matter. For the fall paper, you’ll need to do a deep dive into a theory and offer examples that support/illustrate the theory as well as identifying ways in which the theory does not hold up.

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