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Combining prosperous work lives and balanced personal lives
August 2003

My goal is to bring you news, insights, and information about leading a balanced and prosperous life.

    In this issue, you'll find:
  1. The Power of Partnership
  2. BossWoman coaching
  3. Up and coming workshops
1. The Power of Partnership

In the July BossWoman newsletter we explored how women can make better use of their personal power in male-female relationships. In this Part II of that topic, we will look at a model of power in relationships.

Away from the Battle of the Sexes
Most people would agree that the old sexist models of relationships are outdated. Referring to a culture as "patriarchal" blames men for all the discrimination experienced by women. In fact when gender discrimination is imbedded in a culture women as well as men fail to question discriminatory attitudes and practices.

Sociologist, Riane Eisler, has developed a model to describe how cultures exhibit discrimination towards women without pointing blame at men. In her research at the Center for Partnership, Eisler breaks out of describing models of leadership in male and female ways. Instead she divides cultures into those that exhibit domination or partnership attitudes and behaviors.

Domination cultures are based on the premise that some groups (could be gender, race, religion, or class) are superior and therefore have the right to dominate the other inferior groups. While patriarchy is one form of domination, such leadership styles are not just practiced by males in a culture. When a culture follows the domination model, stereotypical male behaviors are acceptable leadership behaviors whether practiced by males or females. Eisler's research has found that the domination model is embedded in the history of many countries around the world including our own.

Partnership cultures, on the other handbook, are built on the premise of "The Power of Partnership," the belief that all people are created equal and deserve equal treatment. In cultures that follow the partnership model, people are not seen as superior or inferior. Instead they team up together to take care of business and make the world a better place. The partnership model is a model in which leaders, male and female, might be seen as employing stereotypical female strategies such as nurturing and empowering as well as behaviors that have been seen as characteristics of male leaders such as assertiveness and planning. Eisler describes the Scandinavian countries as places where the partnership model is becoming the norm.

Countries that follow the partnership model have higher quality of life for all their citizens as measured by a number of indices including lower maternal and infant mortality. In countries where women do not have access to education and health care, no matter how high the gross national product, literacy rates are low, violence is common, and people live in fear. Regarding quality of life, a new rule of thumb is that as women and children go, so goes the country. The domination model hurts everyone in those countries even the race or gender that is considered the dominant group. For example, women who are denied food so men can eat will produce low birth weight boys and girls.

The great advantage of this new thinking is that the dialectic tension is between the models and not a dialectic between men and women as adversaries. Eisler sees American culture evolving to a more partnership culture as men and women leaders exhibit a combination of traits that have been previously described as gendered.

The Power of Partnership in Your Life
In your work life it is not good enough to prevent sex discrimination. Instead the time has come to explore models of leadership that allow individuals to contribute their leadership styles regardless of their gender. Here are some trends that show organizations moving to partnership models:

  • Flatter, less hierarchical organization charts.
  • Recognition that leaders with the position title are not the only people exhibiting leadership. Hence today leadership is often being measured by 360 degree instruments. How do your supervisor, colleagues, and as well as direct reports benefit from your leadership style?
  • Rotating of leadership in teams in which the same team has one person leading on one project and someone else leading on another. The organization gets the benefit of everyone's strengths and no one is burdened with all the responsibility.
  • The development of women-owned businesses at a rate twice that of man-owned businesses and the employment of more people in the US by companies that are owned by women.
In your personal life as well, you strengthen your leadership skills and those of your partner by using all your strengths for the sake of the partnership so that everyone benefits. Here are some ways that women and men are doing so:
  • Like a business partnership, see both parties as equal but not identical. In other words, both partners make equally valuable but different contributions to the partnership based on their unique strengths. One stay-at-home mom uses the title, "CEO of Smith Household" as her email signature. She considers herself leader of a small company and by using this title expects others to see her unpaid family work as important.
  • Partners are solution-oriented. They try to find ways for everyone to get their needs met much of the time. No one orders or manipulates anyone. Both people's needs are equally important. A problem about the relationship for one is a problem for both to solve. Partners aim for win-win solutions.
  • Partners are respectful of each other's rights and boundaries. They attempt to understand and to act out of empathy for each other. In their discussions, they avoid insults, put downs, and power plays. They take time-outs when things begin to get heated and they come back later to try again for creative solutions.
  • Everybody wins. No one feels under or over benefited. No one feels burdened or put upon. Likewise, no one feels guilty about taking too much from the relationship. They ask each other, "What do you want and how do we make that happen?"
  • In a partnership relationship, men and women don't worry, "What does the other gender think?" They ask the more relevant question, "What does my specific partner think?" Learning about men in general won't help you understand your husband. The best expert about your partner is your partner. So ask him what he thinks and feels.
Application of the Power of Partnership
How can you apply the above principles?
  • Insist (yes, insist) on regular monthly sit-downs to talk about goals, problems, plans for fun. Don't leave the important areas of your lives to chance when you can keep current with each other in less than an hour a month. Be sure to talk about what is going well so that you don't start dreading the meetings as a place to dump all that is wrong with the relationship.
  • When discussing roles and responsibilities, stay solution-oriented instead of problem-oriented asking, "How can we both get what we want from this relationship?" "What will solve this problem?"
  • Reword complaints into requests by using the formula, "I need_____, can you give me______?" Expect that two good solution-oriented people can get what they want at a rate of 80% or higher.
  • Be prepared to make sacrifices in the relationship but insist that over the long haul you are not the only one who makes sacrifices.
You have the power of partnership.

Use your power well,
Susan Robison

Eisler, Riane. (2002).The Power of Partnership. Novato, CA: New World Library.

2. BossWoman Coaching

About the publisher: Susan Robison, Ph.D. is a professional coach, speaker, author and seminar leader. She loves to coach women who want improvement in:

  • work-life balance,
  • career transitions,
  • building your business or practice,
  • time management,
  • increasing productivity.
She provides keynotes and seminars to business and organizations on the topics of:
  • leadership strategies for women,
  • relationships,
  • work-life balance,
  • change.
3. Up and coming workshops

Announcements about fall workshops will be in the September issue of this newsletter.

Subscribe to BossWoman e-Newsletter by sending an email with in the Subject to: susan@bosswoman.org

BossWomen e-Newsletter is intended for informational and educational purposes only. Coaching should not be construed as a form of, or substitute for, counseling, psychotherapy, legal, or financial services.

Copyright 2003 Susan Robison. All rights reserved. The above material is copyrighted but you may retransmit or distribute it to whomever you wish as long as not a single word is changed, added or deleted, including the contact information. However, you may not copy it to a web site without my permission.

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