image Kathleen Parker wrote an op/ed piece is The Washington Post called “Obama: Our first female president.”  Ouch.

That title’s pretty harsh.  She recalls that Tomi Morrison referred to President Bill Clinton was our first “black president,” so in turn President Barack Obama is our first “female president.”  She says never fear – she isn’t calling President Obama a girly man or anything.  Rather, “he may be suffering a rhetorical-testosterone deficit when it comes to dealing with crises, with which he has been richly endowed.”

She’s referring to his leadership style, or as I believe lack thereof.  She says he’s not a cowboy (that’s for sure), and that he isn’t causing anxiety among Alpha-maledom (how would she know?  They’re anxious, but not because they think they’ll be shown up).  Parker writes:

Generally speaking, men and women communicate differently. Women tend to be coalition builders rather than mavericks (with the occasional rogue exception). While men seek ways to measure themselves against others, for reasons requiring no elaboration, women form circles and talk it out.

The BP oil crisis has offered a textbook case of how Obama’s rhetorical style has impeded his effectiveness. The president may not have had the ability to "plug the damn hole," as he put it in one of his manlier outbursts. No one expected him to don his wetsuit and dive into the gulf, but he did have the authority to intervene immediately and he didn’t. Instead, he deferred to BP, weighing, considering, even delivering jokes to the White House Correspondents’ Association dinner when he should have been on Air Force One to the Louisiana coast.

His lack of immediate, commanding action was perceived as a lack of leadership because, well, it was. When he finally addressed the nation on day 56 (!) of the crisis, Obama’s speech featured 13 percent passive-voice constructions, the highest level measured in any major presidential address this century, according to the Global Language Monitor, which tracks and analyzes language.

Granted, the century is young — and it shouldn’t surprise anyone that Obama’s rhetoric would simmer next to George W. Bush’s boil. But passivity in a leader is not a reassuring posture.

Perceived as a lack of leadership?  I think she’s onto something, but it’s hardly an excuse.  I accept the premise that communication styles are different.  I also understand wanting to talk it out (there is wisdom in many counselors – unless it becomes a “group think”).  It’s just that he is just incapable of making a timely decision.  I look at former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, the late Israeli Primer Minister Golda Meir, and recently looking at former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin.  I see leadership capability.  I see the ability to be decisive.  There are times when executives have to make a snap decision.  It’s intuitive.  I’m reminded of Malcolm Gladwell’s book, Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking, not that it should be a standard modus operandi of any leader but it is a quality great leaders have.

With President Obama it isn’t intuitive.  So I don’t think it’s a matter of whether his leadership ability exhibits more female compared to male characteristics.  I think it is a matter than he just lacks leadership ability.

HT: Owen Strachan

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  1. ….Has this woman EVER had a female supervisor? Does she just assume that any woman that is a decent leader is a “rogue”? (Oh, golly, how clever– ooh, “maverick” and “rogue”!!!1!1)

    It’s not that men measure themselves against each other and women don’t, it’s that they both measure themselves but the typical way is different. (very very very loosely, guys do chest-thumping, women snip; guys go “I am awesome,” women go “she is horrible”– direct and indirect.)

    Of course Obama’s rhetorical style isn’t helping– it’s all cotton candy. Vaguely sweet, colored by a tiny bit of influence, artfully constructed to seem solid but vanishes when you pay attention to it, and is totally artificial when you think about it.

    Guys talk about stuff when they disagree, but (once again very generally– on about the level of ‘guys know mechanical stuff’ type accuracy) guys tend to establish that they disagree and it won’t be fixed, then move on; women tend to verbally beat the subject to death to try to MAKE you change your mind and agree with them. (Part of why I tend to like talking with guys– I know they’re less likely to emotionally blackmail me into a “coalition.”)

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