Recently I had a shocking lesson in male and female leadership styles. In a major conference for the travel industry, I had the opportunity to listen to many top leaders, including two who happened to speak one right after the other. These two speakers left me open-mouthed! They starkly showed the differences in male and female leadership styles.
Here’s who I heard:
Bob Somers, Vice President of Global Sales for Delta Airlines
Michele Saegesser, Vice President of Sales for the Americas, Viking Cruise Lines
Both of these leaders are well-versed in their work and articulate. They’ve both spent years in their industry, and they easily demonstrate their expert authority. But listen to the differences in their speaking styles.
Mr. Somers spent his time rapidly going through Powerpoint slides that proudly displayed Delta’s partners, who they had equity stakes with, their high dollar investments in several key airports, and various other facts and figures. He spoke also of Delta’s employees and the travel agents who sell Delta travel tours. His speech was rapid fire and AT the audience. He wanted the audience to think of the company he represented as on the move, an industry leader, and financially on top of their game.
Ms. Saegesser, on the other hand, spoke in a less rushed manner. She began by thanking the many travel agents in the audience who have booked millions of dollars worth of travel with Viking. She talked about the importance of agents to Viking. She made an announcement about beginning to pay commission for shore excursions book through agents. She thanked the many employees at Viking and spoke of how critical their work was. She showed several videos of happy customers traveling through Europe on Viking ships. She pointed out their over-sized windows which allow passengers to see scenery with ease. At the end, she pointed out that Viking was celebrating their 20th anniversary, and they decided to do something “out of the box” as she put it. What did they do? Viking picked a travel agent who has been booking Viking cruises for her clients, showed up at her office, and presented her with a check for a million dollars. Yes, they gave this surprised woman a million bucks.
The tone and intention is different between speakers
The tone of the two speakers could not have been more different. Ms. Saegesser spoke WITH the audience. She brought every one of us into her world. She told stories of travel agents, Viking staff members, and travelers. She said, “I wake up every day and my first question to myself is what can I do today to make it easier for travel agents to book our trips.” She showed caring and consideration in her tone and in her mentioning the importance of her team and of all the agents in the audience. She painted a picture of a company who cares, who wants to take care of its employees, its affiliated agents, its customers.
Mr. Somers wanted the audience to know that Delta was important and a player. He focused on acquisition and achievement. The audience became outsiders, looking into a window that showed what Delta was up to.
These two diametrically opposed speaking styles have a different effect, or at least they did to me. I would love to sit down with Ms. Saegesser and get to know her. I wanted to learn more about Viking. I had no desire to sit down with Mr. Somers. I felt like he’d throw his authority around and be boastful about accomplishments.
Both of these people are at the top of their careers. Both know the industry they work in hands down. One reached out and touched the audience. One did not.
How we present ourselves, it’s everything, isn’t it? To me, part of this shocking difference comes from male and female leadership styles. It’s clearly gender based, in part. The other part? I chalk it up to consciousness and wisdom.
What do you think? Have you experience this type of difference? I’d love to hear your stories in the comments below.
Male and female leadership styles – they both impact results and loyalty. If you’d like to read more about leadership for women, this blog post gives you take aways from another conference.