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Female leadership: how to mix power with warmth (Brad Pitt/Janice Hahn case study)

Being a woman in a power position is more difficult than being a man in a power position.

As Sheryl Salzberg shares in Lean In (this quote not being an endorsement for the book ? ), women who assertively pursue their interests are more disliked across the board: not just by men, but also by other women (just look at senator Kamala Harris for an example).

The same can be said for women who need to enforce the rules or, as in this case, intervene to stop someone from speaking.
A man who does so forcefully might be seen as assertive and leader-like. A woman instead is often seen as overbearing, overpowering and "acting out of gender".
On top of being disliked, she would lose big time in her charming power (hence having to rely only on coercion and assertion) and in her overall attractiveness when it comes to dating (also read: strong VS submissive women).

This is something I talked about in the analysis of Why Hillary Clinton Lost.
And as I said there, I repeat here: we might not like it, we might not agree.. But it's how things are.

How Janice Hahn (Warmly) Owned Brad Pitt

Against this backdrop, I couldn't help but think what a wonderful example of female power Janice Hahn provided in this video:

There are 3 particularly great moments that make her intervention a huge success:

  • She mixes power with humor

"I hate to say that" while laughing and smiling.
Yet she still ends with her power request:

Janice: It kills me to say that but (do) wrap it up

She sends her power message across, she gets big laughter and thanks to her humor and genuinely warm smile she also preserves (and possibly enhances) her relationship with Brad Pitt (while a more forceful action might have soured the relationship).

  • She Says "Thank You" Quicker & Quicker

Notice how her "thank you" gets quicker and more resolute one after the other.
That communicates she means business and it's really time to wrap it up.

Pitt throwing his hands up, in the end, is the proof that he was feeling the (friendly) heat.

However, since the words she used are "thank you" and not, say "OK, OK" or "alright, alright" or "that's it, that's it", it removed some of the sting from the power request.

  • She End On A Positive With a joke

Finally, she wrap it up herself with the joke "we only do one take here" and a big laugh.

The joke is a power joke, as it communicates "you're in our turf now, follow our rules", but as it's cushioned as a joke, it's great. The way she laughs is also super warm and friendly.

  • The Powerful Details

Also notice the little details, when Pitt self-deprecates with the joke:

Pitt: We actors suffer from verbosity
Janice: Right..

She doesn't let Pitt get fully away with it but repeats over him "right... ".
If she had given back the stage fully to Pitt, she would have relinquished total control. And getting back into it would have been more challenging.
By speaking over him instead, she keeps the pressure on and underlines that she means it and he must wrap it up (and signals that she's in charge).

And of course, the voice tonality was fantastic.

In Summary

Women should try to avoid forceful leadership and cruder expressions of power even more than men should.

Mixing a warm smile or some humor in the moments when they need to engage in more forceful actions can be a great way to get things done, have people comply while still preserving the relationships and remaining well-liked leaders.

Overall, this a masterpiece intervention by Janice Hahn.
What a woman!

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Done a full article on this:

And a video on YouTube:

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Guys and ladies...

I need to update this one with more feminine leadership gold.

Here the quick story:

I have recently been back training martial arts.
Now, you'd never guess, but one of the trainers is a lady. And while usually she supports the male trainer, this other day she was alone.

Albeit not 100% my type, she is a quite cute lady and I know a few of the guys fancy her quite a bit.

But let's stick to leadership and femininity.
Was she going to be able to pull off feminine leadership, and combine power with femininity?

She was doing well.
Very well.
But as they say, everyone's good when the going is easy. It's when the game gets hard that you really test people's mettle.

So you can't imagine my excitement when a typical "leadership defining moment" came up.
A leadership defining moment is when the leader needs to enforce authority. In this case, the trainer was talking to explain a technique, but some of the guys were still talking to themselves.

From a power dynamic, that devalues the leader because it says those guys didn't respect her enough to stop talking.

How the leader responds in those cases says the world about the leader.

Leaders who get angry and raise their voice are enforcing their power with a strong hand.
But they also communicate the possibility of defensive fear and, most of all, they showcase a short fuse and quick temper that don't really belong to the makeup of the "ideal leader".

Of course, raising one's voice would be even worse for a woman, who'd come across as too forceful and slightly too mannish.

So, how was she going to handle this?

The way she did it stunned me.

I had never even thought of the possibility, let alone witnessed it.

Here is how she did it.
She stopped talking and said:

Feminine leader: Haaaalllooooo

The trick?
She did it with a singing inflection, really going up with her voice, which showcased all her femininity even while she was dressed as a martial artist trainer, training a group of mostly men.

To put the icing on the cake? She was perfectly on tune.
Like a siren.
I wish I had a recording to show you.

Everyone stopped chatting, giving her full floor and attention.
And giving her back the power, which she now increased while also increasing her femininity.

I was floored.
That was one of the best power move I have ever witnessed.

I think that now I fancy her, too :).

In the picture: Ulysses and the singing sirens.

In the picture: Ulysses and the singing sirens.

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