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October 2012
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Why Men Want a Manager Who is Competitive

Posted by: Nicky Garcea & Emma Trenier

 

At a time when organisations are often reluctant to provide gender-differentiated development, it is interesting to see some notable differences between men and women in their responses to the Capp Ideal Manager Survey.

 

Our Ideal Manager Survey showed that men consistently seek one strength from their managers more than women do. This one strength is Competitive.

 

So why might men want to work for a manager strong in Competitive? Multiple gender studies show that men like to compete, they are confident in their ability to compete, they are less risk averse and less sensitive to critical feedback than their female colleagues.

 

Researchers seeking to support a ‘nature’ argument for why men are competitive offer suggestions relating to evolutionary studies. One such researcher is Harvard Professor Harvey Mansfield.

 

In his book Manliness, Mansfield states that men are innately better equipped to be aggressive and compete. In contrast, women are seen as having an innate ability to empathise and communicate.

 

Supporters of the ‘nurture’ debate show that women are most frequently taught to cooperate whereas men (often through their involvement in sport) are encouraged to compete from a young age. Evidently both arguments are controversial and inconclusive.

 

The interesting question for us, however, is what our male direct reports hope to gain from this strength.

 

When asked this question, men state that they hope their manager’s strength in Competitive will result in the following:

 

1. Working for a winning team – managers with Competitive are described as managers who like to win and develop winning teams. This idea of working for a winning team is described by men as providing a greater sense of accomplishment and job security.

 

2. Clear direction and contribution – managers with Competitive are thought to provide a clear sense of how the contributions of their direct reports relate to the overall business success.

 

3. Contagious success – working for a manager with Competitive is believed to offer more opportunities for profile raising and recognition. Being associated with a successful manager is considered to enhance an individual’s positive reputation.

 

4. Greater investment – managers with a strength in Competitive will categorically agree that ‘losing hurts’. The determination, therefore, to win and succeed can mean that managers invest heavily in the success of their teams and their direct reports.

 

5. More opportunities – in a business context success often breeds opportunity. This might come in the form of new and interesting projects or the chance to be involved in creating a successful product or launch.

 

All strengths can be overplayed and the manager with Competitive who takes this to the extreme might be described as ‘focused on nothing but winning, creating unhelpful internal rivalry between individuals and teams and distracted by their own success.’

 

Guiding and applying the strength of Competitive in service of winning the ‘right things’ is perhaps the greatest lesson we can learn here.

 

At a time when manager research often concludes that managers need to be emotionally intelligent and demonstrate ‘soft skills’, this research provides a useful reminder that there are always other lenses which can be applied to how managers can lead. There is certainly not just one way to manage.

 

Download Capp’s Performance Manager White Paper to find out more about what people want from their managers.

 

You can also read more about what women want from their managers in Nicky Garcea and Emma Trenier’s recent blog, published on Changeboard.

 

 

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