Men Leading in the New World of Work


Last week I wrote about the huge opportunity that’s there when you recognize slow change and move with it. If you had any question about whether women will become ascendant in management, check out last week’s survey. (It’s unscientific nevertheless the results of the 500 people who answered the survey are startling.) I’ll return to that theme in future weeks, but today the yin to the yang.

I’d venture that nothing is more important to us than our children, whether the “our” is the general “our” of community or the intense “our” of the young ones in our own families. And that change I referenced above is profoundly affecting the work place of the home and the major “customers” in it -those kids. Women are on the march in the outside world of work, but have we in our society begun to see the depth and expanse of these changes at home. In this week’s quick survey, I wonder how you think we’re doing – particularly how men are making and will make the transition to leading with their best selves in the home place, where my father’s generation almost never ventured, mine has begun to tread, and in which the Gen Xers and Gen Yers are increasingly plying a new trade.

One of the striking aspects of last week’s survey is the contrast between perceptions (those of men and women) of the great talent of young women, yet their (again both men and women) significant skepticism about when women will outnumber men in mid-level and especially high-level positions.

Is one of the reasons for that contrast the fact that we don’t believe in men’s ability to lead (either full-time or as the primary parent) at home. Is it that we have hardly begun as a society to prepare men for excellence in this new world? In their relatively new world of public leadership, women have models aplenty: Hilary, Carly, Jennifer, Nancy, Oprah or Condoleza – all navigating and excelling.

So whom do we men look up to as models of male parenting? Of course, by definition such role models would be private. But I wonder if many or any guys could name such models. I suspect that we are at a critical beginning point, well behind the curve that women have climbed. Perhaps part of beginning and celebrating the extraordinary opportunity men have to lead in the home place is to unashamedly lay claim to it. I suspect I’m like a lot of guys who feel like, “I’m a pretty good dad, but I make a lousy mom.” I’m guessing that’s the flip of what trailblazing women felt and thought in the early days leading in the traditional world of work.

Maybe it’s time to begin to bring our own unique style (part of which reflects our maleness) of leadership and stop feeling like we don’t belong. It’s probably the best way to create some good role models for our own sons.

Love to hear your thoughts – through the comments and/or the survey – on how, especially guys at home,

Lead with their best self,


  • In the top levels of the corporate world, women’s ascendancy is dependent upong the males who largely ‘own’ the power. People with power rarely give it up willingly; therefore I expect a shift at the top AFTER the mid-level ranks hold a majority of qualified, experienced women.

    At home, men need to learn to parent with their full spectrum of humanity. Those traits are largely learned, and call for communication and compassion as well as the traditional skills learned by young men [a ‘tough guy’ with limited communication will struggle as primary parent]. We must expect robust interpersonal communication from all men. Similarly, we need to recognize the potential for true personal satisfaction from nurturing young minds and hearts.

  • Interesting. One of the issues that men face, in whatever arena that is being discussed, is that good men are genarally taken for granted. Good men are everywhere doing many, many, great things. Who has noticed?
    It’s almost as though that’s what men are expected to do, while women can tout their accomplishments as being extraordinary.
    Good fathers do a great job with their kids. They spend legitmate quality time with their children and no one sees it but the children and, perhaps, the mom. We all know many, many, men who take active participation in their children’s lives. They bring the children everywhere they go. They talk to their children, they teach their children. They cook, clean, change diapers, nurse the children when they are sick, and they go to all the school functions. And again, few seem to notice, except perhaps, the children. The point is that men, nowadays, seem to be noticed only when they are doing something criminal or doing something, perhaps not criminal, but perhaps just as wrong. Even many presiding judges have this attitude.
    And that’s too bad.
    There is another issue. One of the things that women have had to fight through is an attitude that says, “women can do a job in a man’s world, but can never do the job as good as a man.” Now it seems that men must fight through a very similar attitude that states,”men can do a good job in the home and with kids, but can never do that job as well as women do it.”
    I would suggest that the are no “men’s worlds” or “women’s worlds” any longer. I suggest what we have now is “the world”…and we are all in it.

  • I concur with stevemakovec above on the reason women will take longer to gain power in the workplace.

    As far as home life and work life, I believe our society is going to require both parents to work and both parents to ‘parent’ in much more diverse methods and different balance than the past (it already has been evolving, given economic and other conditions).

    Raising families with goals that we all contribute to society, we all share in the work, all work is important, and we all are in this together needs to come from both parents and the community of parents and adults around the family. I believe economic conditions will continue to drive many people into job opportunities they may not have previously considered, but it will open the next generation’s eyes to the possibilities out there.

    Parenting skills are definitely learned whether by male or female – there are those in both sexes with amazing parenting skills and many in both with little/no parenting skills. Having opportunities to gain those skills throughout their life will help both males and females become better parents in the roles they’re filling that day – even while we are at work, we are parenting – just in a different remote way with different means.

    Leading and Parenting on….

  • Re: Male models for men: I am a Democrat, but I think Barack Obama could be a candidate for a male model for me. Eg. Was it that first day in the White House he took his daughters to school! Of course he can’t do that very often and now it’s been turned over to their grandmother. But I get the feeling that he’s not been shy about it being clear that he’s a family man and takes his family seriously, even as president.

  • A great shout of recognition to the rapidly growing group of outstanding men who are holding down jobs as well as taking a lead in parenting and managing homes as most women have been doing (also largely unrecognized) for a generation now in support of their husbands who were building professional careers. Of course, more and more women are now building the professional careers. And some young couples are now BOTH building professional careers, some with children and others choosing to have few children or not to have children.

    That being said, unfortunately we need to mention that far too many fathers still are abandoning their responsibilities to their families, including the children. More media attention to the many outstanding role models out there might help in this regard.

    Better education systems to develop the strong moral fiber that seems to be so sadly lacking in many virtually overwhelmingly impoverished situations might be one key. When parents must sometimes be absent from the home for work, our systems must step up and provide guidance to youth in addition to language arts, math, and science.

    Ideally BOTH parents can be strong, cooperative contributors in workplace and home settings.

  • I am convinced now to never hire another male again. Leave them at home to provide. If I need a speaker or consultant, I will overlook firms like and search for a more-qualified and better performing firm headed by a woman. These last two weeks have opened my eyes.

  • It is difficult for everyone to admit we are vulnerable. It is especially challenging to create and keep boundaries so that it stays safe to be real in relationships, whether at home, work, or both.

    If as adults we find ourselves being more decent and polite to strangers than to our loved ones, then our biggest challenge at home is to act respectfully to our loved ones and protect and honor the trust they have placed in us.

    Listening to what the still, small voice inside is saying about each choice we make throughout the day, looking for what the motive behind the decision is (is it to control? make a difference? feed my ego?) is difficult in the busy lives we lead. Amazingly, taking that time to get centered on what matters makes me more effective, whether at home or work. It is about relationships, they’re fragile and need to be handled with care!

  • I realize my view is skewed because I don’t have a television and therefore am immune to how men are portrayed in the electronic media. That said, within my circle of friends, what you are describing has already taken place. There are already more stay-at-home dads than stay-at-home moms. In fact, there aren’t any stay-at-home moms amongst my close friends. Even those dads who work outside the home take an equal part in the raising of their children.

    None of this has seemed particularly remarkable to any of us–it’s just the way we live our lives. That said, it also helps that everyone is very supportive of each other and some of the stress is relieved by our willingness to be a village. No one is alone in parenting, they are surrounded by people who care for each other.

  • I think the most significant statistic from last week’s survey is the small % of men responding. I will watch this week to see if that changes. Do male readers not care to speculate? Do they not think the question is important? Were they all rigging to sail Chi-Mac? Is there a way for Dan to present the data by gender of the participant? Will Contador win?

  • I, too, noticed what Ton Nugent did as I reviewed the survey. I have listened, as well, when some media sources noted that (across several surveys) younger survey respondents have supported legislation protecting LGBTQ marriage rights (and equal rights for LGBTQ Americans in general), over older survey responders. Might the same be true for this survey? It appeared that most responders were women over 40 (that’s me). I wonder what the younger responders thought of women in CEO spots?

  • Our transition from a manufacturing-based economy to an information-based economy is driving changes that tend to bolster the increased presence of both the male in the home and the female in the workplace. In many cases, the home IS the workplace for either or both of the marriage partners. The unfortunate increases in the ranks of unemployed men and women is also giving them more time in the home.

    Less money to spend and no place to go during the day SHOULD help fuel an increase in face-to-face family time, but do they? Until recently, both parents often were working — not to provide necessities, but to provide all the cool, technological tools and toys that, let’s face it, helped to increasingly fracture the family and reduce even further the time and opportunity for parenting and leadership to take place in the home. I would like to believe in a renaissance of parenting and home leadership, but my heart tells me we are not yet ready.

    I worked for Social Security for 14 years, and saw the results of countless retirements. The old definition of retirement still holds true: twice as much spouse / half as much money. I was surprised at the number of divorces and separations which occured within a year or two of retirement. Even worse was the number of severe illnesses and deaths within two years of the beginning of “the golden years.” The reason: Husband and wife had spent so little time together, they had become strangers to each other, with friends and support systems built outside the home — which now served to pull them apart. Parenting, when it happened, had taken place in shifts rather than as part of a team. Now, with an (often angry and depressed) unemployed spouse in the house, and coordination and collaboration skills which have atrophied, the situation grows tense and emotionally charged.

    My point? The question may not simply be whether or not a male can become a domestic leader and effective homemaker, but whether or not he can do it with one (emotional) hand tied behind his back and whether or not the family can survive the stresses. It is fortunate that God created humans to be resilient and flexible, given that they can be so silly and stubborn. I guess we need a little recession once in a while, just to remind us about what really matters and to give both men and women the opportunity to grow in new directions.


  • We assume that the only family conflict is with children of working parents. Conflict also exists with working children of elderly parents. I think women feel more responsibility for the well-being of the family be it the younger or older generation. Women breaking the glass ceiling are doing so because they are recognized by senior management or at the board of directors level, positions mostly held by men. Family obligations pull hard and can present a career obstacle for a person who takes on these responsibilities.

  • My wife and I had demanding full time careers. We utilized the services of au paires, day care centers and college students to care for our three children. Ultimately we chose to have one of the parents cut down on the career responsibilities while our kids grow up. My wife continued her extraordinary career, and I continue to work in human resources management part time, and teach for Eastern Michigan University part time. There were several occasions when I second guessed giving up my rewarding full time career. I had to become comfortable in my own skin knowing that I am not a main provider (of financial resources) for my family, and not a top achiever professionally. However now, I feel so blessed to have the opportunity to support my three children as they blossom academically and in their outside activities (dance, soccer, and many others). I have been blessed with the opportunity to remain current in my career and contribute. I continue to have the opportunity to support my incredible wife as she performs extraordinarily in her career, and yes as a “supermom” at home. My role is every bit as challenging (perhaps more) as holding a “high powered” career position, and I believe more rewarding.

  • These last two week’s postings, based on your blog content matter, Dan, are quite interesting. It looks like a gambit procedure to me. I got a kick out of Mark S.’ take on things.
    When you wote the singular names of women, suh as Hilary, Carly, Jennifer, Nancy, Oprah, and Condoleza…..I had to think for a moment….is he referring to Swank or Duff?….Simon?….Aniston or Rice?….Sinatra or Drew?…..but then, I was clearly able to deduce it was Winfrey and (another) Rice that you were mentioning. If the Nancy you referenced was Ms. Pelosi, yes, she is leading and excelling, at spending frivolously about $50M a year to fly her back and forth to S.F, CA every week on Air Force II. I dated a gal who worked at Hewlett-Packard, her continual description of the catiness and vindictiveness of the women there gave me a sour taste in my stomach……I think that men hav a role, womebn have a role, and both can be interchanged….but to me…it looks like you have placed women on some sort of holier than thou pedestal. Where would the likes of Imelda Marcos fit in? I really think your gender reassignment dialog has a certain degree of relevance, especially given the dire economic conditions of his country but overall, I view it as a substitute for flowers to your wife on her birthday.

  • Danmulhern here:
    Mike Plourde – I think what you wrote here is quite brilliant. It’s worth reprinting:
    “There is another issue. One of the things that women have had to fight through is an attitude that says, “women can do a job in a man’s world, but can never do the job as good as a man.” Now it seems that men must fight through a very similar attitude that states,”men can do a good job in the home and with kids, but can never do that job as well as women do it.”
    I would suggest that the are no “men’s worlds” or “women’s worlds” any longer. I suggest what we have now is “the world”…and we are all in it.”

  • Danmulhern:
    Since I posted this RFL on Monday, 250-some people have responded to the survey. Here’s what’s interesting about it to me:
    1. Nearly 2 of 3 respondents are female. So, Tom Nugent what you noted about last week (about 70:30 female:male response rate) continued to be true. Why?
    2. I can’t say why the responses are heavily female-dominated. I don’t keep gender stats on my RFL subscriber list or with my Twitter or Facebook communities. I’d be shocked if it’s 2:1 female, so I suspect that this topic has been a “women’s topic,” even if it’s about men.
    3. Are the Mark’s (somewhat sarcastic) responses indicative of this? It turns out that my “putting women on a pedestal” seems to reflect an amazingly broadly held view – as both men and women believe young women are more capable than their male counterparts. (Again, my survey is unscientific, as my respondents are not randomly selected from the general populace.)
    4. On last week’s survey (with almost 500 responses), 52% of women indicated that young women are “more capable” than men, while 11% of women believe that young men are more capable (36% said they’re even). Men are not far off in their perceptions: 40% of men said young women were more capable, and 16% said young men were more capable.
    5. Those numbers are truly remarkable! Imagine if they were reversed (as one assumes they would have been 40 years ago). People (especially womens rights activists) would be screaming about the wild bias.
    6. This week’s numbers continue the apparent admiration we have for women’s capabilities over men’s. In this case, in the home sphere: Over 98% of women said that young women were more “capable of succeeding in the work of home and children” than young men at least 50% of the time. In fact 70% of women believe that over 60% of the time the young woman is more capable than the young man. Again, men’s Among the men who responded only 13% felt young men were more capable at home than young women.
    The data offers fascinating grist for our social mill. It begs many fascinating questions. Three seem most essential: 1. What are the capabilities that we consider important for success – whether we’re talking about men or women at work? 2. What do we need to do to be sure that men (as well as women) are fully capable of reaching their own greatness in the work outside the home and in thier own home? 3. Have we allowed ourselves to develop a new bias that makes it hard for men to be presumed competent at work and at home? I should hasten to add that last week’s survey suggests that we have to continue to ask these questions about women, too, especially when it comes to executive level positions, where men and women alike think that women are decades away from equal representation.
    What are you further thoughts?

  • Still, note that the plurality thinks it’s about even. They say women are more competent half of the time, and men more competent half of the time.

    In other words, whether you’re a man or a woman does not seem to determine how competent you are.

    Another way to look at this: While more women than men took the survey, fewer than half of all respondents think women are more competent than men. I seem to be getting a far different interpretation of that than you.

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