This afternoon, the headline "Senate Deal Reached"...flashed across the screens, and began the first shaky step to avoiding a national default and re-opening the U.S. government. But in watching this debacle unfold, there is a central lesson in the nature of leadership. We need to separate the leaders who are good at getting the job versus those who good at getting things done.
When we surveyed 64,000 citizens around the world for our book, The Athena Doctrine, ego and pride were the least correlated to what people envision in the ideal modern leader. These two character traits are at the heart of a masculine-driven system of political dysfunction. (Even George Clooney once quipped, "I haven't got the ego for politics"). While these are prime characteristics to getting into office -- any office usually -- they don't prepare a leader to manage with sustainability in mind. And that's where feminine values come in.
Our survey showed that in 13 countries, 76 percent of people said that, "Women are more patient and able to plan for the future." We also observed that what people thought were feminine -- skills like flexibility, sharing credit and collaboration, were essential to modern leadership. Perhaps this is why The New York Times article, "Senate Women Lead in Effort to Find Accord," is the most emailed article of the week: Senator Susan Collins of Maine, a Republican, led a bipartisan group of Senators, a disproportionate amount them women, to come to a solution, even as women are still dramatically underrepresented in governance.
But in our travels meeting with world political leaders, we came across inspiring female politicians and feminine political models, where leaders set aside their egos to come to solutions. We met with Efrat Dudaveni, Israeli President Shimon Peres' director general, on a sunny afternoon in Jerusalem. ''All the leading positions here at the Office of the President are held by women, most of them mothers,'' Duvdevani told us. ''Women have to combine many aspects of their lives into one life -- and if the work place facilitates this, then everyone gains. The modern world can provide solutions for working mothers -- with technology you can work at any hour and through the night -- it's how the modern economy should be.''
In her office, we found about a dozen crowded around a low table set with pots of tea and cold water -- Duvdevani wants everyone involved in the conversation, so everyone gets a seat. The women who joined us, and they were all women, held top positions as aides and advisers, and the main point they wanted to make was that collaboration, not ego, made the place work. ''The world is so complicated that you must have different people with different expertise putting their heads together to solve problems,'' said Duvdevani. ''Here it's a matter of teamwork, teamwork, teamwork. And once again, teamwork.''
Women, she believes, are exemplary of teamwork and are well rounded in the workplace, adept at understanding multiple perspectives. Speaking of her staff, she noted, ''My legal adviser knows very well how the media works. The person responsible for the budget knows what's happening on the legal side and understands public opinion. In the past, the focus was on one- dimensional professionalism, with employees encouraged to be experts in their own field only.'' She added, ''Today the workforce requires excellence and an ability to combine different fields, to work together and to put ego aside." A lesson our Congress has yet to learn.