Women Make Better Leaders, If They Want to

This was one of the ‘aha’s that came to me at the Conversations Among Masters conference in North Carolina last week. Anthony Smith, author of The Taboos of Leadership, explained that women make better leaders.

An analysis of 45 leadership studies found that the best bosses use a leadership style that is more reliant on high EQ than on high IQ. They act as inspirational mentors who encourage their staff to develop their abilities and creatively change their organizations.  Women, on average, have higher EQs and are more likely than men to enact this transformational style.

But if women are such great leaders, why are there so few of them in the top echelons of corporate leadership? Only 2% of Fortune 1000 CEOs are women. Smith argues that the reason is that fewer women choose the single-focus-on-work lifestyle that top leadership requires. Women are more concerned with work-life balance as they tend to take more responsibility for their family lives. Therefore women tend to be satisfied at lower levels of management. They don’t have as much ambition and will to advance, choosing instead roles that allow for more flexibility.

In contrast, only 1% of pre-school teachers are men. Does this mean that men are not capable of doing these jobs, or just that they prefer not to?

This issue strikes a cord with me because I think society is losing the point by focusing on comparisons of how much men and women earn and how equal they are in terms of hierarchical leadership. Of course I strongly believe that women and men should be paid equally for work of equal value. I also believe that society will benefit when women have much more influence than they currently do. But wouldn’t it be more relevant to focus on how much freedom and opportunity men and women have to express themselves through their work? Men and women may one day contribute equally, but in very different ways.

Money and position power are no longer the only measures we have for success. I think using money alone as a measure of success is an inherently masculine point of view and as the feminine aspects of humanity gain more influence, we will accept more complex measures for our success. In fact this trend can already be seen in initiatives to use triple bottom line accounting.

I certainly don’t judge my own success solely by the measures of position and income. Do you?

Read more here from Anthony Smith on whether women make better leaders than men.

Here’s another article with more information on transactional versus transformational leadership.

6 Responses to Women Make Better Leaders, If They Want to

  1. Anonymous says:

    Wish I could agree with this article ….. unfortunately the women leaders (at least at the executive level) that I've had the experience of working with has shown me how NOT to lead.I wonder though, if this could be both generational and industry biased – there aren't very many women leaders in the IT and banking industry and the ones that reach the executive level that I've worked with have been older. So perhaps there's a difference in leadership styles?Could it be that they're attempting to emulate the male bosses that they've known with a more brusque leadership style? Or could it be that they feel they've got to appear to be tougher, more exacting and less nurturing to make it in a usually male dominated environment?Interesting stats on the teaching profession though I wonder if this is restricted to the lower levels of schooling because there seems to be a larger number of male teachers/professors at the college level.

  2. Anonymous says:

    Hi Caroline! I do think women have distinct advantages as leaders, but I think we've only just started to skim the surface of this issue. For example, some say that women are more likely to be harshly judged when they come across strongly. A woman would be called aggressive whereas a man in the same situation would be seen as passionate. Also a woman who expresses opinions and exerts influence in a feminine style can easily be ignored by a boardroom full of men. Does that put those women you mention in a no-win situation? Or are they just standard bad bosses, just like any other, regardless of sex? The good news is that some feminine qualities are now more highly valued, at least in middle management ranks where the majority of people development happens.

  3. Anonymous says:

    Hi Angela,Through the Labyrinth, by Alice H. Eaglyhttp://www.amazon.com/Through-Labyrinth-Become-Leaders-Leadership/dp/1422116913/ref=pd_bbs_sr_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1208937858&sr=8-1Check this book out, I think this is of value to more understanding on how women can find better ways to exert their leadership.This was the book I tried to remember this afternoon.Cheers, Joey

  4. Anonymous says:

    Ah yes. Thanks Joey. I've read an HBR article by the same author and it is really interesting.She brings up several key issues that could limit women's ability to reach high levels of leadership. The most provocative is the contention that people resist women's leadership because they don't expect women to act like leaders, and so it grates on them. Interesting to do some self-reflection on that one! For example, how do you feel about Hilary?I think that women's roles in the workplace will continue to evolve and that some major changes are coming in the way work is done that will make it easier for women to become more influential. Anyway, we have a growing shortage of leaders and we will need all those women and their powerful leadership qualities.

  5. Anonymous says:

    On Hillary, I think she has proven that she can lead ….but the question is where is she trying to lead us to? Is she a leader who really listens, absorbs and tries to bring her flock along the path that will most benefit them? Or is she a leader who hears, pay lip service to, and brings her flock along the path she wanted to go down all along?I find her abrasive, untrustworthy and would not want her at the helm of any company I happen to work in, much less lead a country I live in, because I don't trust her to consider doing what's right for me unless there is something for her to gain out of the process.I have met some women leaders who lead because their strengths are subtle and they lead from the back. I think it's as important to be a leader ensuring that the vision set by the organization continues to be executed by the teams as it is for leaders to help build the vision. Perhaps women feel more comfortable in this role?

  6. Anonymous says:

    Canada had a female Prime Minister, for about 5 minutes. She was really smart and had a lot of integrity. But she couldn't survive the political game.Maybe most women just can't win at the masculine game without losing their integrity. Well, most men can't either, evidently. But at least it's their game.I think servant leadership is the new leadership game, where leaders who are not truly in service to a bigger cause, can't lead as easily and effectively as those who are. Today's followers are so much better informed, and so much more mobile, that given the choice they'll follow leaders who serve them. Followers sense a rat in a leader whose ego (fear) guides them more than their passion to do good.So while women have the advantage of being able to serve, they have the disadvantage of playing in political realms that don't suit their feminine preferences. That makes it very easy for them to slip into postures that express their fears, whether it's being overly defensive or more often, overly offensive.But the tables are slowly turning, as flattening hierarchies force men to learn more feminine games, and more women are there to play with them.Thanks for the really interesting question, Caroline!

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