David Brooks and the Humble Hound

What Women Really Think
April 9 2010 4:10 PM

David Brooks and the Humble Hound


Close readers of David Brooks’ New York Times column today will note that he made a sly pronoun transition. Brooks was writing about two different models of business leaders. One is a boardroom lion-"superconfident, forceful and charismatic." The other is a "humble hound" who "thinks less about her mental strengths than about her weaknesses." Brooks did not make this explicit, but the lion was always "he" while the hound was "she." We think he meant it as a compliment. The lion, after all, was overconfident, sometime to the point of thoughtless and reckless. And in fact there has been a growing trend of drawing on traditionally feminine traits as the new ideal for what’s known as the "transformational" leader-a good listener, fair negotiator, reads facial cues well.


But as always with these models, the more Brooks talks, the more it seems like gender stereotype and less like a compliment. The new "she" leader is modest, humble. She draws her lessons from the long-suffering Japanese. In the end, Brooks compares this mythical "her" to a stage hand, content to work behind the scenes while everyone else gets the applause. A stage hand? When has a stage hand ever graduated to CEO?

Photograph of David Brooks by Alex Wong/Getty Images.

Hanna Rosin is the founder of DoubleX and a writer for the Atlantic. She is also the author of The End of Men. Follow her on Twitter.



Don’t Worry, Obama Isn’t Sending U.S. Troops to Fight ISIS

But the next president might. 

The Extraordinary Amicus Brief That Attempts to Explain the Wu-Tang Clan to the Supreme Court Justices

Amazon Is Officially a Gadget Company. Here Are Its Six New Devices.

The Human Need to Find Connections in Everything

It’s the source of creativity and delusions. It can harm us more than it helps us.

How Much Should You Loathe NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell?

Here are the facts.

Altered State

The Plight of the Pre-Legalization Marijuana Offender

What should happen to weed users and dealers busted before the stuff was legal?

Surprise! The Women Hired to Fix the NFL Think the NFL Is Just Great.

You Shouldn’t Spank Anyone but Your Consensual Sex Partner

Sept. 17 2014 5:10 PM The Most Awkward Scenario in Which a Man Can Hold a Door for a Woman
  News & Politics
Altered State
Sept. 17 2014 11:51 PM The Plight of the Pre-Legalization Marijuana Offender What should happen to weed users and dealers busted before the stuff was legal?
Business Insider
Sept. 17 2014 1:36 PM Nate Silver Versus Princeton Professor: Who Has the Right Models?
Sept. 17 2014 6:53 PM LGBTQ Luminaries Honored With MacArthur “Genius” Fellowships
  Double X
The XX Factor
Sept. 17 2014 6:14 PM Today in Gender Gaps: Biking
  Slate Plus
Slate Fare
Sept. 17 2014 9:37 AM Is Slate Too Liberal?  A members-only open thread.
Brow Beat
Sept. 17 2014 8:25 PM A New Song and Music Video From Angel Olsen, Indie’s Next Big Thing
Future Tense
Sept. 17 2014 9:00 PM Amazon Is Now a Gadget Company
  Health & Science
Medical Examiner
Sept. 17 2014 11:48 PM Spanking Is Great for Sex Which is why it’s grotesque for parenting.
Sports Nut
Sept. 17 2014 3:51 PM NFL Jerk Watch: Roger Goodell How much should you loathe the pro football commissioner?