Do Men and Women Vision the Future Success Differently?


One of the joys of my career has always been helping individuals and groups develop compelling, meaningful and guiding visions – the kind of visions that pull them excitedly into their future.

Most of the corporate visioning work I’ve done with executive teams has not included many women. No big surprise there, given that women are still struggling to penetrate the executive ranks. As a result, it wasn’t until recently, working with women-owned businesses and senior women leaders, that I’ve had the privilege of experiencing how women envision the future differently than men. In the process, I was relieved to discover that – as a woman – I am not alone in having an expansive, positive and exciting vision of things are headed.

What I learned in the process of working with women confirms the research I’ve read about how women are motivated by more success factors than men tend to be in their business interests. Specifically, while men are more apt to define success in business as the acquisition of money and power, women are interested – also – in impact beyond the bottom line. This has resulted in companies with women on their boards being more generous philanthropically and being 81% more motivated by how their contribution could create change when giving money to non-profits. My female clients also report viewing employee satisfaction and retention as key success metrics.

Interconnected visions of success

Working more closely with women leaders on their visions of the future, I’ve seen how these broader definitions of success work at a more intimate level. The women leaders I have guided through visioning an exciting future for their businesses and careers have a very integrated vision of themselves as human beings. They struggle – like we all do – to “balance” career and personal interests, but this work-life perspective leads to beautifully integrated future visions where business success, personal success, family success and community success are all interwoven and mutually reinforcing.

Given the chance to dream outside traditional business visions of money and power, women create ambitious futures where financial success for their business contributes to their families’ security and also to their employee’s capabilities and happiness. They also see how their success contributes to their business partners’ growth and are motivated to “raise all ships.”

The women I’ve worked with are also motivated to “see” themselves in their futures as self-actualized human beings. They don’t divorce their personal needs from those of their business, but strive to ensure that their business success contributes to their personal growth, and visa versa. They are not interested in building businesses that sap their personal energy to the point that they have to make “either/or” choices. They build “both/and” visions of success into their futures, and are conscious that their employees, customers and partners also have these desires and needs.

Does a broader vision of success disadvantage women?

Because the modern business gestalt tends to seek and reward more traditional “money and power” definitions of success at the moment, it’s no wonder more women don’t make it into senior positions. Not just because they are not always welcome (which is certainly still the case in many executive suites) but also because many women choose not to sacrifice their other definitions of success in order to focus so single-mindedly on money and power.

So through the “success” lens of “making it to the top” women as a group are currently at a disadvantage in traditional business settings. Often they make an empowered choice to pursue their own definition of success and this takes them out of the competitive scramble to the top. This is why the entrepreneurial ranks are bursting with women, as they pursue careers where they can achieve success on their own terms.

Why women’s visions are enduring and will help men

What seems like a disadvantage today will be an advantage tomorrow. The workforce is changing and the current youthful generations (Gen Y and millenials) beginning to fill the leadership pipeline – men and women alike – have success values more closely aligned with the women I’ve been working with and describe above.

This means that women who can focus on achieving financial success AND other kinds of success have an advantage when it comes to figuring out how to motivate and engage the future workforce. It also means that as younger generations age into middle and upper management, the integrated forms of success women strive to create today will become more widely appreciated and shared by men in leadership. As a result we can expect that women’s talent and desire to succeed “on all fronts” will be more welcome in the leadership circles.

This isn’t just a future thing. This is happening today everywhere men and women work together to envision futures that excite everyone to go beyond their current reality to achieve something amazing.

Welcome to the future. It’s awfully bright.

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