Saturday July 12 2014

The principles of failing as a female boss

By Joseph Sematooke

Robert Nabimanya, a general manager with more than 35 years’ work experience, is a man who is today happy to see both male and female professionals in Uganda competing equally for opportunities in the top rungs of the professional ladder.
He says 20 years and more ago, he saw a number of able women denied opportunities at the top simply because they were women, and as one who disapproved of the situation, he is just so happy to see the turn-around.

However, Nabimanya says while women now relatively enjoy equal opportunities as men in regard to top professional rungs, he has also –since the leveling of the ground– seen a number of female bosses mess up their opportunities in a way men do not.

Timidity and lack of confidence
Nabimanya says he would like to simply advise women bosses to exude confidence and conviction while commanding their forces at work, but he chooses to instead warn them against timidity because he thinks what he has seen in some of the female bosses he’s known is too disheartening to address it indirectly.
He says: “You are the boss. It is you at the steering wheel, so, you have got to get the team do as you say at all times. Inspire, direct, teach, control. Do not fear any one. Know that sometimes, war is inevitable and in such circumstances you will only survive if you are bold and daring (and, of course, strong and wise) enough to stand your ground to defend your territory.”

However, Nabimanya quickly adds that exerting your authority and calling the shots doesn’t mean becoming “unapproachable, rude, hostile, aloof, disrespectful, sneering or any of other such beastly attributes.”

He says a leader always needs a touch of humaneness, and that as a woman you have more potential to find and employ this trait more successfully than men. His final quip on this: “Successful women bosses actually use their motherly natures to win the love and confidence of their subordinates.”

Applying excessive emotion
Walusansa says as a woman, she has firsthand experience of the “almost-inherent” tendency of female creatures to act out of emotion rather than logic. But she calls upon every woman with an eye on the top of the professional ladder to ensure that invariably her first foot forward is that of logic and not emotion.
“Losing self-control in whichever way will not just strip you of respect and trust; it always drives one into hazardous, scarcely-thought-through decisions, while keeping your calm no matter the circumstances leads you into the opposite direction,” says Walusansa.

Excessive girl talk and interests
In Walusansa’s own words: “A ‘bitch’ is what too much girly talk and activity makes you, and a sexist is what you become from excessive activism for women’s affairs. Neither of the two characters yields results for a woman in leadership, so you have got to always remain balanced.” However, Walusansa also cautions that while at it, “Make sure you do not turn out as though you are a man in a woman’s body, or are trying to turn yourself into a man.”

Gender wars
“I have seen a few of my sisters who, once given some authority, adopted tendencies that seemed aimed at undermining their male colleagues, or even worse, seemed intent on pushing men to the bottom,” says Walusansa.

“Such behaviour is simply crossing into the battleground of gender wars, and it is sure to pull you down. So, while lording it over them, make sure to leave men with their masculinity or you will most likely a fight with them.”

Disgraceful looks
According to Nabimanya, it does not matter whether you are boss or not. As long as you are a woman, your looks will inevitably impact your life a great deal.

He says for a boss, however, it is even worse, because there is too much at risk for you in looks that invite scorn, ridicule, contempt… “Don’t even dare dress sexy: Always seek to look dignified, beautiful, moral.”

Silly flirtatiousness
As a woman, Walusansa agrees that you nturally have “a need for the men to find you attractive, beautiful, charming, maybe even sexy.” But she says especially “as a boss, you shouldn’t be obsessed with it. And anyway, flirtatiousness is no way to achieve it.” Walusansa says the temptation to flirt about the workplace, no matter who with, is a very dangerous manhole.