The Male Measuring Stick: 3 Ways To Rethink Performance

6th July 2015

Posted In: The Topic

Last month I wrote about ‘5 Ways to Work More Effectively with the Women on your Team’. One of the comments from one of my fabulous readers was “You caught my attention immediately with the male measuring stick.” Maybe it is time we had an open conversation about ‘The Male Measuring Stick’.

Words: Jennifer Kenny



1. It’s not what you think

It’s a standard that everyone, male and female gets measured against. Measuring everyone by The Male Measuring Stick is like comparing apples and oranges, only you are colour blind and can only see green. It’s like determining the value of every car based on its mileage, or every house based on its square footage.

Using the same measuring stick when evaluating different things is just plain silly. But every day, in every corporation we use the same measuring stick and try to measure the complimentary, unique and different qualities of Masculine and Feminine Leadership.

We use a standard that is completely blind to almost half the talent, and gifts in the world. And then we work very hard to get everyone to fit that standard. And everyone works very hard to fit that standard, ‘speak up’, ‘be seen’, ‘don’t hide your success’, ‘negotiate better’, ‘be more confident’.


2. You can’t measure what you don’t see

The Male Measuring Stick is ubiquitous; everyone gets measured by it, whether you are male or female. “In the 1950s in the United States, the potential usefulness of appraisal as a tool for motivation and development was gradually recognised. The general model of performance appraisal, as it is known today, began from that time.”(source). Anyone who has watched Mad Men already knows what the ‘general model of the performance appraisal’ was designed to measure. It was designed to measure the job performance of men. Designed by men for men. Which made some sense at the time, but today it simply makes us blind to half of the leadership qualities of our teams.

To riff on an Edward Deming quote “You can’t measure what you don’t see.” If we want to measure Feminine Leadership traits and qualities then we need to learn to see them and measure them. We need to learn to see qualities like: perception – the ability to see collateral impact; context creating – the ability to frame and create relevance for yourself and others; connectedness – the ability to see the oneness or interrelatedness of people, situations and opportunities. This is the tip of the iceberg but the qualities and traits of Feminine Leadership are as deep, as powerful and as useful as the Masculine ones against which we all get measured.


3. We are only measuring half of our talent

The ‘one size fits all’ approach is failing us – miserably. The latest Gallup Poll says that 70% of American employees are disengaged at work. Motivation, as delivered by performance appraisals, is obviously not sufficient. Being ‘seen’ and valued may be. It is time to expand the Measuring Stick.

I love the Tom Peters quote “Leaders don’t create followers, they create more leaders.” But if ‘You can’t measure what you don’t see” and you are only measuring half of the talents of your team (men have feminine leadership qualities, just as women have masculine leadership qualities) you are reducing you chances of creating more leaders by 50% and halving you own chances of been seen as a leader.

Jennifer KennyJennifer is a speaker, writer, Leadership Futurist and Wise Leadership coach, @WMBMagazine contributor, Global Women’s Leadership Network Board Member @GWLN, Huge fan of @theelders, Mom and general mad Irishwoman., @jenniferlkenny