Over the last one decade, my profession has given me some deep insights on how women and men think and express their feelings. Now what I am going to share in the next few paragraphs are only about my experience with people and not generally the norm.
What I am going to touch upon is more about men being strong emotionally and how this veil which most of us do wear can be counterproductive. Why I am saying this is because I have come across so many instances where I have heard the following
“Come on dude be a man!”
“Men do not cry, they are strong”
“Men need to be strong from the inside and the outside”
“Men need to manage their emotions better and always be emotionally strong.”
“Be Manly. “
Now I am sure if you are a man or a woman you would have heard any or all of these at your work place or even at home. Now there is no hard and fast rule which does imply that men cannot express their feelings or share their weakness or challenges with someone else. According to me this is a basic human trait, which has got nothing to do if an individual is a man or a woman.
When I did see Barack Obama cry during several of his public speeches, I do remember this been spoken about in many forums. One of the most common statements I did come across about this incident was “How can the president of the most powerful country in the world cry?”
Somehow the same yardstick is been seen with men in Senior positions. This is exactly what Newton Kumar did tell me when he spoke to me. Now Newton was a C Suite Leader of a fortune 100 Company. He was young, highly educated and had a great family life. However, Newton was someone who was very Emotional and teared up when he got too emotional.
Since Newton Kumar was also a golfer I did suggest to him as to why not meet on the course and discuss this over a game of golf. I have over the years had some great conversation on the golf course with C suite leaders than in the boardroom.
So, Newton did mention that his company was actively looking at someone internally for the CEO position for his company. Ideally Newton would have been the default choice to move into the role. However the CHRO of the company did have his reservation about Newton being the right fit for the simple reason that over the years there were many instances when Newton did tear up in meetings and in open houses.
The CHRO did feel that Newton never projected a tough exterior, which was what the role did ask for. Even though Newton did match all the other criteria with flying colors, the CHRO did have his reservations about he been the right fit.
So, there was Newton and me on the golf course teeing off and discussing about why it has become important for an Executive especially someone in the Sr level of an organization to project a tough exterior and be like a man of steel.
So, Newton did ask me “Satish I feel the pain in people or situations and am very empathetic about what others are going through. However, I just cannot stop tearing up when it does strike a chord with me. What do you think I should do? How can I overcome this habit of mine? Can you help me work in this area???”
To cut the long story short, I did work with Newton in his core areas of Leadership Skills and on lot of other aspects required by him to be ready for the top job. No, I did not touch the part of him which was showing empathy, connecting with people and showing the soft side of him.
I personally do feel that irrespective of what position we men can be a professional or personal level it is imperative to be empathetic and not necessary to be steely from the outside. Yes, when the situation does demand from us to be tough and strong then it is a given mode we need to operate.
However, to lead from the front it is imperative that we work on understanding people, stopping by people to give them a hand and yes if required to sit next to someone and just make them feel better.
Just like how women across the world are changing for the better, it is about time for men also to connect with their emotions and make an honest effort to reach out to others. There is nothing wrong in accessing your emotions for good and NO it will not show you as a loser, weakling or even spineless.
I can just about remember a dozen world leaders who have at some point of time have teared up, dug into their emotional muscle and shown empathy in front of the public. The more we do see this happening around us it will be accepted as a norm in the future generations to come.
Being emotional is what does makes us more human and gives the leadership the humane touch which I do think is missing in the world today. So, if you are emotional and believe in expressing it then do not feel any less with others who do show a steely exterior. Each one of us have different ways of connecting with people.
Aqualus M Gordon speaks about the stigma associated with masculinity in this insightful article.
If you try to become someone whom you do not want to be, then you will only end up disappointing yourself big time in the near future.