Are Two Sexes Better Than One?
Are You Fundable #4
In my last article in this series, I posited that gender, ethnic and sexual orientation bias is bad for business, especially in the context of creating effective management teams for innovative companies. In this post, I’ll explain why that’s true and invite you to build your management team around the principle of Polycephaly – having two heads.
At the outset I invite you to hold three principles as truths:
- Men and women are profoundly different and see the world differently
- Genetic mutation is a key driver in the evolutionary processes of all species
- Two heads are better than one – at least on management teams
I just ask you to hold these three principles as truths for now and read on, and you can decide for yourself whether they are in fact true and how that might impact your business.
All human beings have heads, and four of our five primary senses are centered in the head. Interestingly, a growing body of research continues to document very literal differences in how men and women see, hear, taste and smell and thus how we process stimuli differently. This leads to different modes of categorizing and using sensory data and ultimately to different interpretations of the same data.
Reality – let’s define that for the moment as the total sum of available sensory data – may be one unified field of data, yet women and men see it differently, moment to moment. Researchers posit that these different views of reality developed culturally since in most early cultures men hunted and fought and women coordinated and managed. That doesn’t mean women can’t hunt as well as men or that men can’t manage as well as women. It does mean that the two genders of the human species seem to have evolved to primarily focus on and develop different skills.
So we could say that each gender learned to see reality in a way best suited to carry out its primary roles.
Now I think we can agree that this seemed to have served evolution – after all, we’re still here and seem to be at the top of the food chain. To survive and thrive each gender developed complementary skills. Over time those traits were favored by evolution and became well-entrenched in the human species, crossing the gender line as well. Today, each trait is found in both genders – though women tend to express the coordination and management trait more often than men, while men express the hunter/fighter trait more often than women.
But here’s the key: one set of skills (either one) has very little survival value without the other. If there were only the genetically “male” developed traits, people would go and hunt, bring back carcasses, throw them in a pile and starve to death while the meat rotted. If there were only the genetically developed “female” traits, communities would be clean, well-ordered and systematized, but there’d be little in the way of food to eat, so they’d all starve.
But, you might argue: “I’m a guy and I love to tend the grill; in fact, that’s my job! And my wife is the hunter, she is the one who goes to the store to buy the steaks.”
Ah, but there’s the rub (I prefer a smoky, spicy, dry rub myself). We all know men who love to cook and women who love to run triathlons. So, its not the physical distinctions in the body you happen to be occupying that makes the difference. It’s the genetic patterns that inform your reality and give you a proclivity towards hunter or manager.
That’s where the Hydra can inform us.
The Greeks tell the story of Heracles (Hercules) who had to do battle with the Hydra, a many-headed beast, as a part of his hero’s journey. You can read more about this at the link above. Let me summarize one of the major takeaways from the story:
Beasts with several heads are really hard to kill!
In the story, Heracles is losing the battle with the Hydra. It wasn’t until he, himself, became a two-headed monster, through the aid of a teammate, that they were able to defeat the beast. In other words, Heracles needed two heads to defeat the Hydra.
Do you get the connection?
Business is tough and competitive. Since you’ll face a lot of Hydras along the way, you’d better be one yourself. Be hard to kill like the Hydra.
Here’s how to accomplish that . . .
One particular issue frequently found in innovative companies comes to mind: The founder of an innovative company is often highly competitive, visionary, and driven with a mental focus on the long-term strategy, a desire to disrupt the status quo, and a style of leading from mission and purpose rather than one-on-one relationship building. I call this type of person a vision-master. There are of course infinite variations; this is just a common set of traits I see in founders.
What the vision-master needs is execution-mastery: someone or ones with greater attention to relationships in management, greater attention to stability and organization as opposed to disrupting the status quo, greater attention to the short and mid-term time horizons and greater attention to defense, asking habitually “what can go wrong” and “what can we do about it.” These latter execution-master traits are more often found in women, but as I said, this is not universally true. So stepping into this kind of role, the execution-master role (often given the COO role or president role), is what many women and men with these kinds of traits should aspire to do, even if they eventually want to move into a vision-master role themselves at some later time.
See my book Born to Star for detailed profiles of these execution-master types. Sheryl Sandberg of Facebook is a compelling example. Vision-masters with traits like Mark Zuckerberg, even if not so pronounced, would each be well served to find their Sheryl Sandberg.
So think about it . . .
Two parts of the brain. Two eyes that see different things but work together. Two sets of complementary skill sets that took us to the top of the food chain. Two different skills sets needed to beat the competition. Vision-mastery and execution-mastery. Two genders that see a different set of data, though there is (arguably) just one field of objective reality. Two parts of one whole – without both you will never get a complete view of the playing field and you’ll struggle to win.
So, what do you think?
Are two heads better than one?
Key Takeaways: Male and female traits can be found in both genders, but generally developed through evolutionary mutations to guarantee survival and were strengthened by cultural norms. Both are required to survive and thrive, whether in the village or at the office. Business growth involves struggle, and there are always going to be many-headed beasts to defeat. That requires that your team have two heads: the vision-master and the execution-master, working to complement one another.
In the next article in this series, we will explore specific tools you can use to identify the diversity of traits you’ll want to create your winning team.