Are Women Better Leaders than Men?
Specifically, at all levels, women are rated higher in fully 12 of the 16 competencies that go into outstanding leadership. And two of the traits where women outscored men to the highest degree — taking initiative and driving for results — have long been thought of as particularly male strengths. As it happened, men outscored women significantly on only one management competence in this survey — the ability to develop a strategic perspective (see chart; click on the image to view a larger chart).
So what should we conclude from these data? Why are we not engaging and fully employing these exemplary women leaders? Yes, blatant discrimination is a potential explanation. If not actual than certainly perceptual. When we shared our findings with a group of women outside this particular survey and asked them to suggest why they thought their colleagues had been rated so highly on taking initiative and self-development, their answers pointed to the still-tenuous position they feel themselves to be in the workplace:
- As leaders in organizations look hard to find the talent they need to achieve exceptional results, they ought to be aware that many women have impressive leadership skills. Our research shows these leadership skills are strongly correlated to organizational success factors such as retaining talent, customer satisfaction, employee engagement, and profitability.
- As to the constant state of unease we hear women leaders express — clearly, chauvinism or discrimination is an enigma that organizations (and the business culture) should work hard to prevent. However, that said, think of the benefits every leader in every organization would gain from a mind-set that they simply can’t afford to make a mistake. Paranoia or extreme risk aversion is clearly detrimental to a rising career. But in today’s economic climate, every leader, male or female, would do well to avoid becoming complacent.