Last week was International Women’s Day and of course we were all championing the placement of women in leadership positions and discussing board quotas.
Despite women being greatly under-represented in leadership roles, new research shows that women actually rank higher than men when measuring effective leadership behaviours. This really grabbed my attention. Management Research Group’s first study on gender leadership trends in the Australia/New Zealand region measured 22 leadership behaviours and ranked effectiveness of women leaders based on them. It found that of the 22 behaviours, women were particularly strong on nine and men particularly strong on just five of them. So does this mean women are better leaders or is that far too simple a conclusion?
The sample was chosen based on leadership roles with similar functions, to ensure the data collected was representative, resulting in a total sample size of 442 men and 446 women. Women were particularly high performing in behaviours relating to their connection and energy – such as ‘excitement’, ‘feedback’, ‘production’ and ‘empathy’ – whereas men rated higher on behaviours relating to ‘control’ and ‘structure’.
All leaders displayed the 22 qualities examined to some degree, but it emerged that men and women have different levels of effectiveness when using these behaviours. Leaders ranked themselves and were also ranked by others, including their boss, colleagues and direct reports. Women were rated more effective overall than men when it came to the measured leadership behaviours.
It showed that for men in leadership roles, communication is based on convincing and persuading, but for women leaders, communication is more focused on explanation. As a result, men are often better at building a case for themselves to get promoted, whereas women assume they’ll be promoted based on their results and work outcomes. Could this be a big reason why more women don’t get to those senior roles?
Whether you’re a male or female boss, do these findings apply to you or do you buck the trend? I’d love to hear your thoughts.