Sheryl Sandburg’s book, Lean In, and the controversy over Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer’s Report to Work policy have recently generated a myriad of opinions regarding how women should lead once they reach the C-suite. This spirited debate got me thinking about one often overlooked leadership quality: the ability to nurture.
Before deeming that nurturing has no place in the workplace, hear me out. I’m not referring to the dictionary definition about protecting and feeding our young. I’m talking about the kind of nurturing that provides the right conditions for growth and development. Too many women are reluctant to show this quality in the workplace, and many men don’t think they possess it. Each of these thoughts misses the mark.
Most B2B marketing professionals are familiar with the term “lead nurturing.” It is a reference to creating a consistent environment that builds relationships and trust with prospective customers. We’re comfortable talking about this in marketing. So why are too many women and men reluctant to discuss nurturing as an element of effective leadership?
Nurturing can (and should) be a powerful force that transcends gender. Here’s why:
It’s good for employees. There is growing scientific research regarding the effects of nurturing environments—from the positive impact on physical health to the satisfaction of feeling a sense of belonging.
Considering that most of us spend more time at work than with our loved-ones, a nurturing environment is as important in the workplace as it is at home. I can’t think of any downside to employees feeling good about going to work each morning. This has little to do with financial compensation. It has a lot to do with the shared trust and experiences that occur within healthy relationships and communities.
It’s good for business. Workplace culture, at its core, is about the people who work in a company and how they collectively experience their colleagues and the place in which they all work. Step into a workplace where employees believe their voices are heard, growth is valued and collaboration is encouraged. The energy level is creative, productivity is high and there is a competitive advantage when recruiting top talent.
These are outcomes every business leader hopes for. It just takes a bit of nurturing to get there.
Marianne Canter (@canterconsults) is president of Canter Consulting, a marketing communications and fund development firm providing integrated strategies to take businesses and nonprofit organizations further.