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Redefining masculinity can create better leaders

By Charli Edwards, Creative Director

Cavendish Consulting


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May 10, 2023 | 8 min read

Leadership has long been viewed through a masculine lens; does marketing need a softer approach? Charli Edwards of Cavendish Consulting addresses the industry's problem with toxic stereotypes.

Hand emerging from water

Does the creative industry suffer from toxic masculinity? / Yash Prajapati

Every day, male leaders are presented with numerous opportunities and challenges. But how do we ensure their approach to conquering these obstacles is sound? While there may be no single answer to this question, healthy masculinity can go a long way toward helping male leaders tackle the tasks at hand effectively.

Redefining masculinity isn’t just about making it easier for men — it’s also about understanding what behaviors work best when achieving success.

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What is healthy masculinity, and how can it benefit male leaders?

Healthy masculinity is not just a buzzword; it’s a movement taking the world by storm – and for good reason. It’s high time we rethink masculinity and what it means to be a great male leader. Being vulnerable, empathetic, and communicative are no longer weaknesses, but pillars of true strength.

Leaders who demonstrate empathy towards their team members are more likely to be viewed as effective leaders, and their teams report higher levels of job satisfaction and engagement. Adopting healthy masculinity can help build stronger relationships with team members, foster trust and create a more positive work culture.

As a leader, it’s essential to understand the value of empathy in fortifying relationships. Empathy is the ability to put ourselves in another person's shoes and understand their perspective thoroughly.

It helps us connect with our colleagues, understand their concerns, and find a pathway toward resolving conflicts. It empowers us to bridge the gap between managerial expectations and the employee’s feelings, promoting a more collaborative work culture.

Power in confidence, not perfectionism

While striving for excellence is admirable, fixating on everything being flawless can stall progress, and hinder growth. Conversely, confidence is the driving force behind taking action and making decisions – even if they aren’t always perfect. It allows for adaptability, risk-taking and, ultimately, forward movement.

We live in a world where success seems to be measured only by our achievements, but what if there was a different way to think about success? What if we could redefine success through balance and moderation?

While perfectionism can hinder growth and progress, confidence is associated with higher levels of adaptability and risk-taking. Perfectionism is associated with increased levels of stress, anxiety, and depression and can lead to negative outcomes such as procrastination and decreased productivity. Meanwhile, confidence has been linked to better decision-making, increased motivation and higher levels of leadership effectiveness.

So: instead of sacrificing our health, relationships and well-being for career success or financial gain, we could strive for a more well-rounded and fulfilling life by setting goals with balance and moderation in mind. It may take a shift in mindset and a commitment to breaking old patterns, but the benefits of a balanced and moderate approach to success are immeasurable.

Letting go of unhealthy masculine traits (rigidity, aggression & need for control)

We get it: society has programmed us to think that being a ‘real man’ means possessing certain ‘masculine’ traits. But honestly, it's time to toss that programming out the window like last night's leftovers.

It’s time to embrace vulnerability and flexibility. It’s not always easy to take responsibility for our actions, but it's essential if we want to grow as individuals. When we make mistakes, it’s tempting to shift the blame onto someone else.

However, admitting when we’ve been in the wrong takes real strength. By analyzing what went wrong, we can identify areas for improvement and work to avoid similar mistakes in the future. No one is perfect, but we can become the best version of ourselves by holding ourselves accountable.

What can male leaders learn from their women counterparts?

Research has found that companies with more women in leadership positions tend to have higher employee satisfaction and engagement levels. Women tend to excel in emotional intelligence; they possess a higher level of empathy and can connect and communicate with others more deeply.

This skill is essential for effective leadership as it enables leaders to understand their team's needs and perspectives, and ultimately drive success. Additionally, female leaders are often more collaborative, prioritizing team efforts over individual accomplishments.

Why is it important in the creative industry?

The creative industry is not just a place where imagination runs wild; it's a crucial element of our society. The industry produces everything from films and music to advertising and design. It has the power to influence our thoughts and behaviors, and it provides a platform for people to express themselves.

The creative industry is essential for shaping our world, challenging the status quo, and pushing boundaries. Without it, we would be confined to a world of sameness and wouldn’t have the same opportunities to be moved, inspired, or provoked. It’s imperative to understand the importance of healthy masculinity and how it requires empathy, confidence, balance in life and letting go of rigidness, aggression and the need for control.

As Ted Bunch, co-founder of A Call to Men, states: “Toxic masculinity is a social construct that harms both men and women. It’s time to break free from these harmful gender norms and create a more inclusive and empowering definition of masculinity that encourages empathy, respect and equality”.

Gender Stereotypes Agencies Diversity & Inclusion

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Cavendish Consulting

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