Leveraging Talent

Women tend to exhibit different leadership characteristics and attributes than men. These are not necessarily better or worse, merely different. Sometimes male attributes are needed; sometimes female attributes are preferred, and often both sets of attributes can add value to a situation, strategy, or effort. One scholar noted that female attributes are particularly valued in today’s economy because of the fast changing global environment, which includes cultural diversity and social, political, and economic uncertainty.

Women tend to be more holistic rather than linear thinkers. They usually look for win-win instead of win-lose solutions and are often more process-oriented than men are. Women also ask different questions. For example, within the political and governmental sectors, women bring diverse life experiences, policy perspectives, and concerns that differ from those of men. Women are also known to be more sensitive to nonverbal communication cues and are often more comfortable with ambiguity. One researcher reported that new pathways to better decision making have been forged through women’s diverse leadership styles and their focus on inclusiveness and cooperation. In addition, women tend to be more nurturing and often care deeply about developing others around them, which makes them particularly powerful role models, mentors, and coaches for women and men alike.

In today’s world, there continues to be a myth that men are better leaders than women, but—according to a host of studies in the last two decades—that is just not the case. In fact, women have outperformed men on numerous leadership competencies in a number of recent studies. For example, one study of 3,000 executives from nearly 150 countries found that subordinates rated women leaders higher than men on competencies such as energizing others, design and aligning, tenacity, and outside orientation. Other researchers looked at data from 7,000 leaders and found that, according to subordinates, peers, and superiors, women outperformed men on 12 of 16 measures of outstanding leadership competencies and scored the same as men in the other four. Most significantly, women’s scores lead those of men in taking initiative, practicing self-development, displaying high integrity and honesty, and driving for results.

Source: Utah Women and Leadership Project, Research Brief No. 5, January 2015.

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