Gender And Leadership Styles

During a long period of time, men have been considered as possessing characteristics that are better suited to management. However, as more and more women are moving into management in recent years, some questions have arisen: Whether women in fact bring a different style of management into organization? Are women’s ways of leading more effective than the traditional “command-and-control” style? Which leadership style is better?

In this report, I will explain the differences and similarities between male and female leaders and discuss which leadership style is better. As the number of female leaders is growing, what changes will they bring to business? What is the trend for leadership style? During the report, dilemma faced by female leaders in today’s society also will be discussed. Business people should realize stereotyping leadership is very harmful for leaders’ growing and companies’ performance. At last, I will give some suggestions for good leadership style and point out there are also many other aspects to determine leadership style except sex.



Different genders’ leadership styles………………………………………….1

Male leaders vs. female leaders, which make better leaders…………………..3

The trend of leadership style…………………………………………………6

Feminine leadership style is growing ………………………………………..6

Different leadership styles blend together ……………………………………9

Dilemma faced by female leaders in today’s society: stereotyping leadership…………………………………………………………………….10

Suggestions for good leadership styles………………………………………12

Listen Carefully………………………………………………………………13

Being Decisive………………………………………………………………..13

Be Willing to Express Your Emotions………………………………………..13

Doesn’t Let Your Ego Get in the Way………………………………………..14

Be Yourself……………………………………………………………………14

Is sex the only reason to determine leadership styles?……………………………….15




1. Introduction

Leader is the central part of a company. No matter what kind of organization it is, the activity of leading is very important. Leader style is also called manager style, which is concerned with maintaining motivation, balancing interests and implementing tactical plans. “An effective leader is someone who motivates a person or a group to accomplish more than they would have otherwise accomplished without that leader’s involvement” (Gedney R., 1999). As a good leader, he or she should be visionary, innovative, and has strategic and logical thinking. Good leadership style can help a company to build and sustain a high performance structure.

When a baby is born, the first question people always ask is “is it a boy or a girl?” The baby’s gender determines what kind of characteristics he or she would have to some extent. If the baby is a boy, he is more likely to be competitive, strong and tough in the future. If the baby is a girl, she seems to be more careful, emotional, and patient when she grows up. So according to different characteristics male and female maintain, their leadership styles have many differences.

2. Different Genders’ Leadership Styles

“Research presented by Dr. Pat Heim in her video, ‘The Invisible Rules: Men, Women and Teams,’ indicates that each gender is a ‘culture’ in itself, raised with invisible rules of conduct instinctively known to all adult members of that gender” (Norton D., 1998). Male leader leans towards the traditional “command-and-control” style. They are more likely to employ a transactional leadership.

“The transactional leadership style was first described by Max Weber in 1947 and again by Bernard M. Bass in 1981” (“Transactional leadership”, 2007). The style “developed by Bass is based on the hypothesis that followers are motivated through a system of rewards and punishment” (“Transactional leadership”, 2007). Leaders using this style view job performance as a series of transactions and they offer rewards for services rendered or punishment for inadequate performance. This means if the followers do something good for the organization, they will be rewarded. On the contrary, if they do something wrong, they will be punished. The only purpose of the follower is to carry out the wishes of the leader. In fact, this kind of style may begin to form the very early leader-follower relationship. Male leaders give the ideas to their followers that they can get better raises by following orders.

As for female leaders, they also use the transactional leadership style. But the study found “they were more likely to focus on the rewards component of that style” (“Transactional leadership”, 2007). On the other hand, male leaders prefer to focus on the punishment aspects of that style.

A Harvard Business Review Report by Judyd B. Rosener on a leadership survey shows that women are more likely to use transformational methods than male leaders. “The study, based on responses from 456 executives–355 women and 101 men–found that the women were also more likely to use what experts call a “transformational” style, getting subordinates to transform their own self-interest into the goals of the organization” (Nelton S., 1991). Transformational leaders are more interested in working with people holistically, not just making deals.

Female leaders are tended to use this kind of “interactive” leadership style. They not only encourage others’ participation but also attempted to energize followers by enhancing their sense of self-worth. They inspire and motivate employees while allowing them some initiative and giving them the power to make decisions on their own. Many women leaders believe that people perform best when they feel good about themselves and their work. The leaders are opening access to information to increase opportunities for continuous improvement.

But there are also some similarities among men and women managers. “An extensive review of research suggests that similarities in leadership styles tend to outweigh the differences. Because of career self-selection and organization selection, people who choose careers in law enforcement or real estate have a lot in common. So do individuals who choose managerial or supervisory roles” (David C., 2006).

In retrospect, for transactional leadership style, women always exceeded men when it came to the positive aspects. Meanwhile, men always exceeded women when it came to the negative attributes of the style. In another way to say, women always won when it was good to win and men always won when it was bad to win. “Men are strong and decisive. Women build bridges of empathy. Men get things done. Women care more about the process”(“Different leadership styles”, 2007). The transformational leadership style that women typically use makes them better than men at negotiating. There are many communication strengths for female leaders: they enhance team work, win the trust of the people they work with, and encourage innovation. Male leaders also have many advantages: they tend to set strong boundaries, assign clear responsibilities and weed out weak performers.

3. Male Leaders vs. Female Leaders, Which Make Better Leaders

During a long period of time, men have been considered as possessing characteristics that are better suited to management. However, as more and more women are moving into management in recent years, some questions have arisen: Whether women in fact bring a different style of management into organization? Are women’s ways of leading more effective than the traditional “command-and-control” style? Which leadership style is better?

In 2005, a year-long study conducted by Caliper (a Princeton, New Jersey-based management consulting firm), and Aurora (a London-based organization that advances women), identified a number of characteristics that distinguish women leaders from men when it comes to qualities of leadership: “Women leaders are more assertive and persuasive, have a stronger need to get things done and are more willing to take risks than male leaders….Women leaders were also found to be more empathetic and flexible, as well as stronger in interpersonal skills than their male counterparts….enabling them to read situations accurately and take information in from all sides….These women leaders are able to bring others around to their point of view….because they genuinely understand and care about where others are coming from….so that the people they are leading feel more understood, supported and valued” (“Women Leaders study”, 2005).

The Caliper study findings are summarized into four specific statements about women’s leadership qualities: “Women leaders are more persuasive than their male counterparts. When feeling the sting of rejection, women leaders learn from adversity and carry on with an “I’ll show you” attitude. Women leaders demonstrate an inclusive, team-building leadership style of problem solving and decision making. Women leaders are more likely to ignore rules and take risks” (“Women Leaders study”, 2005).

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In the book Why the Best Man for the Job is a Woman: The Unique Female Qualities of Leadership, the author Esther Wachs Book makes research on the careers of fourteen top female executives – among them Meg Whitman, President and CEO of eBay – to find out what makes them so successful. “What she discovers echoes the Caliper study, including a willingness to reinvent the rules; an ability to sell their visions; the determination to turn challenges into opportunities; and a focus on ‘high touch’ in a high tech business world” (Lowen L.).

Women in both staff and line positions were more likely to be leader-style executives than their male colleagues. “In 1998, women are just estimated to fill only 25% of managerial positions in Germany, 28% in Switzerland, 33% in the UK and 43% in Australia”(Maria G., 1999). But after several years, “women hold nearly one-third of all federal white-collar supervisory jobs; their performance in the sales and hospitality industries is exemplary, and their ascent into top management positions in large companies has increased nearly 60 percent over the last decade. In both the UK and Ireland, women represent more than 45 percent of the workforce” (Gurdal I., 2005). Even though women make up a small fraction of CEOs at the largest corporations in the world, their leadership style might actually be more effective than men’s.

The challenges of the future for an organization is more focusing on concerning for people, interpersonal skills, intuitive management, and creative problem solving. These characteristics being touted as critical for future success are just the qualities female leaders always have. So in some respects, it seems that female leadership style would be more suitable for the development of an organization.

“In a position to shape a corporate culture, women business founders say the companies they create are different from most of those headed by men” (Nelton S., 1991). The structures that women establish seem to be flexible and these structures can help to create more interactive environment for a company. “Since women also tend to discuss problems more openly and utilize ‘group-think’ to seek solutions, such solutions are often more acceptable to teams” (Gutiérrez M., 2008).

From the above we can see, female leaders are superior to male leaders in many aspects. But this does not mean male leaders are not as good as female leaders. Several studies on gender differences have found very little discrepancy between men’s and women’s leadership qualities. Male leader can handle better on “taking charge” while female leaders are better at “taking care”. Since male leaders are more “masculine”, they are good at solving problems, delegating, and influencing superiors. Female leaders are more “feminine”, they are more likely to be supporting and rewarding others, building team and consulting. Interestingly, some male leaders are better at networking, which generally is seen as a “feminine” behavior. Some female leaders are better than males at solving problems, an ability regarded as male leadership style.

4. The Trend of Leadership Style

4.1 Feminine leadership style is growing

The general perception of business management before was a structure dominated by males whose leadership style was hierarchical, tough, action-oriented, and even autocratic. In most people’s mind, the ideal leader should be regarded as an independent, tough, individualistic hero. But today a new generation of women is bringing to business a different style often described as more consensus-building, more likely to encourage participation by others, more open and inclusive, and even more caring than that of many males. As the researcher Judy Rosener points out: “Now a second wave of women is making its way into top management, not by adopting the style and habits that have proved successful for men but by drawing on the skills and attitudes they developed from their shared experience as women” (Nelton S., 1991).

Dr. Musimbi Kanyoro, the World YWCA Secretary General, says attitudes toward leadership are changing, below is part of the speech: “There is a new growing appreciation of…those traits that women use to keep families together and to organize volunteers to unite and make change in the shared life of communities. These newly admired leadership qualities of shared leadership; nurturance and doing good for others are today not only sought after but also indeed needed to make a difference in the world….A feminine way of leading includes helping the world to understand and be principled about values that really matter” (Kanyoro M., 2006).

In today’s society, domination as a leadership style is becoming less popular than before. Studies show “an increasing number of business people are expressing agreement–that women are especially suited to leadership. Moreover, according to the studies, leadership based on greater openness and interaction with people is especially suited to a contemporary work force whose members identify with such traits far more than previous generations did” (Nelton S., 1991).

Today’s work force is better-educated. Nowadays, more and more young professional workers are joining into the organizations. They demand to participate and contribute. In some cases, they have knowledge or talents their bosses don’t have. Normally, these kinds of workers are likely to respond more to interactive leaders. So flexibility, teamwork, trust and information sharing are replacing rigid structures, secrecy and control. Today’s company requires leaders who not only are risk takers, but also are capable of hearing the ideas of others and really give them the power to use some of the ideas in changing business making them successful. The best leaders listen, motivate and provide support to their people. Just like the President of the nearly $500-million-a-year magazine group of Meredith Corp. James Autry said: “We’re going to be so short of workers by the end of the decade, particularly knowledge workers and information-service workers, that companies that try to manage in the old top-down, hierarchical, drill-sergeant way are just doomed” (Nelton S., 1991).

In fact, there is always a faulty perception about management. People always think soft management means the leader is sensitive, caring and supportive, and hard management means the leader is tough and draw the lines. But actually, a lot of the tough guy is really cowardly and ineffective management. Managers who take the “hard” approach sometimes are hiding behind a shell rather than confronting their own emotions and feelings as well as rather than confronting other people’s loyalty to them.

Many experts agree that women are more likely to have the ability to deal with the complicated problems existed in the company. They are more active in building networks, listening, resolving conflict, and getting people to work together. In addition, women can help companies be more competitive because they see business opportunities as a result of their own experience. Many female leaders have the confidence that they can help company grow very well in an international market. Although men still run the world, more and more people realize that it might be in better shape if women were more often in charge. “While males account for the majority of leadership positions, the influx of females into the workplace indicates that the tide may soon be shifting” (David C., 2006).

Edward M. Moldt, who is the managing director of the Snider Entrepreneurial Center at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, “says that the women’s approach is ‘one that is right for the times’. Women can meet this challenge very well, he suggests, because they are ‘very comfortable with having to persuade people, to encourage, to motivate,’ while men are ‘used to giving orders and having them followed'” (Nelton S., 1991). Today’s leadership is becoming more feminized simply because it makes good business sense.

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“Judith Hoy of Learning Systems, a New York consulting firm specializing in management effectiveness, notes that female leadership traits can help companies solve three major problems–the need for better customer service, the demand for higher quality, and the need for leadership itself” (Nelton S., 1991). Gradually, many male leaders start to use the so-called feminine tools of leadership without embarrassment. “Being more male than male” is no longer effective for women leaders on controlling a company. Women leaders have more opportunities to use the styles that are more natural to them as individuals, whether “soft” or “tough.”

“Women now make up more than half of all college students and about half of all law and medical students” (David C., 2006). As never before, the world is seeking capable women as being the female leader. It’s happening most quickly on the entrepreneurial side, as well as on the corporate side. A large growing pool of women will have the chance to show their executive talent. According to the research on Google, in United States, more than 4 million of women have already started at the top by launching their own companies. In order to nurture the development of women leaders, many companies encourage mentoring for women. They create situations that facilitate informal, on-the-job advice for women. Some companies also add women to board of directors.

4.2 Different leaderships blend together

Although there are many advantages by using feminine leadership style, smart companies are making room for a diversity of styles, encouraging the development of women leaders along with the men. Men tend to be more direct and goal-oriented while women tend to be relationship-oriented and seek harmony.Men and women can learn strengths from each other. Many women are combining the best of the traditional styles, such as focus on performance, into their leadership style, while men are adopting the so-called “soft” management approaches that women use effectively. For the fortunate businesses, these different styles should be complementary rather than confrontational.

Men and women managers can work comfortably together at the top, and they can produce a synergism that gives the company it would not receive if two men or two women were in those job. The capability to meld different leadership styles is essential for organizations hoping to fully realize their potential.

“McArthur and Glen four years ago founded McArthur/Glen Group, a company that develops and manages upscale outlet shopping centers throughout the country” (Nelton S., 1991).McArthur sees herself fitting the female leadership mold, she is very interactive-encouraging participation and trying to share power and information to her employees. McArthur is willing to spend more time with employees to work out problems, while Glen is more directive and more interested in the big picture. Glen is 65, and McArthur is 41. For McArthur, Glen is not only her working partner, but also her mentor. McArthur’s administrative assistant, Lorri Schoeni described them like a zipper, fitting very nicely. Both McArthur and Glen love the mix and think it’s great.

Regardless of what kind of method the leader uses, the important thing for the leader is to understand the strengths and weaknesses of the style they use most frequently. To be effective in the workplace, the leader must also realize that switching between different styles can make his or her company have better performance.

Dilemma Faced by Female Leaders in Today’s Society:

Stereotyping Leadership

When we talk about the two types of leadership -one is predominantly masculine and the other is predominantly feminine, we would think about two different kinds of figures: men in the military and on the playing field to train soldiers, and women in the home to manage the house and nurture husbands and children. Since many women have been married and have children, most of them spend higher average hours of housework than men per week. The competitive pressure is growing higher and higher in today’s society, women have to strive to balance their professional careers and family roles. Some people think female are not suitable for being leaders because women always consider their family a lot and can not spend all efforts on work. Women’s inability of being leaders is not because they lack adequate leadership characteristics, it is because they do not have time and energy.

“Widely shared gender stereotypes are in effect the “genetic code” of the gender system, since they constitute the cultural rules or schemas by which people perceive and enact gender difference and inequality” (Carli L., 2001).

Male and female management styles are distinct. In many cases, managerial stereotypes fit with gender stereotypes. Both sexes agree to stereotypes of participative-cooperative female and directive-aggressive male management styles. Women are stereotyped as being better at feminine caretaking skills such as supporting and rewarding. Men are perceived as having essentially masculine taking-charge skills such as influencing superiors and delegating responsibility. But no matter what leadership style female executives choose, they are more likely than men to be perceived negatively. Female business leaders act consistent with gender stereotypes are considered too soft. But if they go against gender stereotypes, they are considered too tough. To explain these, when a female leader exhibit traditionally valued leadership behaviors such as assertiveness, she tends to be seen as competent but not personable or likable. If she adopts a more stereotypically feminine style, people like it but not see it as having valued leadership skills. So there is a double-bind dilemma for women in leadership: “Damned If You Do, Doomed If You Don’t” (“Study”, 2007).

There is also another stereotype that dominates current corporate thinking: men are better problem-solvers than women. “Since men far outnumber women in top management positions – women make up less than 2 percent of the U.S. Fortune 500 and Fortune 1,000 CEOs – this may keep women at lower management and professional positions” (David C., 2006).

The key components of interpersonal powers include problem solving, influencing superiors, delegating responsibility and other take-charge types of skills. “Research suggests that women robbed of this interpersonal power in a company must rely more on their positional power and their place in the hierarchy of their organization. As women rely on the formal authority of their positions for their influence base, they comprise only approximately 16 percent of Fortune 500 corporate offices. Therefore, their positional power is limited” (David C., 2006). Although women into executive positions are offering diversity training, this will not be sufficient to eliminate the stereotypes. Women have much further to go before they are fully accepted in senior positions.

Gender stereotyping is very dangerous. Its effects can be devastating, potentially undermining women’s capacity to lead and posing serious challenges to women’s career advancements. This even leads to misrepresentation of the true talents of women and contributes to the startling gap in business leadership.

In order to provide an environment that encourages equal opportunities for women’s advancement, companies need to take active steps to combat stereotyping by instituting more rigorous and unambiguous evaluation processes, as well as educating managers and executives about stereotyping. Women leaders achievements should be showcased, especially those in male-dominated fields. An overall company policy is to develop a gender-sensitive workplace, which strives to enable women to participate equally in decision making and improve gender equality. Companies should use objective criteria when evaluating an executive’s performance. With a supportive, equitable business culture, the company would enjoy better financial results, improved market share and a growing, well-educated segment of the workforce.

6. Suggestions for Good Leadership Style

Regardless of the size of the company, both men and women business leaders have a lot they can teach one another about leadership, as well as the members of their own sex. As they learn from one another, they can bring strengthened leadership abilities to their companies. Here are some suggestions for good leadership styles.

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6.1 Listen Carefully

For this point, women leaders tend to be better listeners than men. Listening is the key because leaders can learn from the people who work for them by listening. If followers know their leader is open, the leader even hears the downside directly. Listening to others is a kind of way to gather information. It enables leaders to keep making changes to improve the organization.

However, listening doesn’t always mean agreement. Listening to a person doesn’t mean you should decide it in his or her way. Leaders should be good at filtering useful information. Some leaders meet with a different group of 15 or more non-managerial employees for round-table discussions every month. By talking with those employees, leaders can get to know people at levels they might never see. The purpose of the round-table discussion is communication, but a wise leader makes a point of listening more than talking.

6.2 Being Decisive

“Decisiveness is defined as being ‘characterized by firmness and decision'” (“Being decisive”, 2007). Being decisive doesn’t mean having a closed mind or being bullheaded. A good leader should know when to stop building consensus and gathering information to make a decision. Decisiveness is an area that women could probably learn something from men.

6.3 Be Willing to Express Your Emotions

This point goes for both men and women. Many male managers find that when they stopped trying to bottle up all their emotions, they became a better leader. Female leaders are often not as direct and honest as they should be, they are fear of crying in order to avoid being thought soft.

Cry doesn’t mean you are wimp. Leaders who cry for their employees’ outstanding performance or regret for their own leading mistakes convey that they care about their employees and inspire excellence. It is not talked about management for and by the wimps. In fact, it is about the most difficult management there is, a management without emotional hiding places. If you are going to be on the leading edge of management, you sometimes must be on the emotional edge as well.

6.4 Doesn’t Let Your Ego Get in the Way

No matter you are a man or a woman, you have to learn that there is no room for ego in leadership. Only one person can not make a company successful. Running an organization it’s a team effort and a team attitude. If something is good, both leader and followers will all take credit. But if it is bad, they all take the blame. Leaders should not be too proud of themselves and focus on making profit for their own, since it will be found sooner or later and followers will not trust the leaders any more. Don’t be egotistical does not mean you can not get to the top if you want to. But what the leader should make it clear is that the more people you try to take along with you, the faster you’ll get there and the longer you’ll stay there.

6.5 Be Yourself

Don’t try to force yourself into a certain style that’s not natural to you, even if you think it’s expected of you. You can learn to draw on other leaders’ styles, however, to enrich your choice of tools. Leader should build on his or her strengths in terms of the personality, and it basically comes down to what works best for him or her.

The chief of financial officer of Bull HN Information System Inc., Richstone, who commanded a staff of 700 worldwide said before: “My feeling is that the women who will do the best in the long run are the ones who are comfortable being themselves” (Nelton S., 1991). Although female leaders are strong professionals, they should feel secure enough to wear dresses instead of masculine-looking suits. Women leaders can also keep a jar of candy in the office, which is regarded as a “typically female” touch. Believe it or not, such little things can produce an environment of communication and friendliness.

7. Does only sex determine the leadership style?

The leadership style is not just influenced by gender, the style also develop out of personalities and life experiences. Each leader has a predominant style, but the other aspects of leadership must also be present as tools to use. “It is up to the leaders of business to affirm the humanitarians values that women are associated with but that men also can (and do) express if they are not made to feel embarrassed about showing them. And those qualities of toughness and drive that many men are made to feel comfortable with should be prized in women who wish to express them when they are appropriate. The category is ‘people’, not ‘men and women'” (Nelton S., 1991).

For many successful male and female leaders, their partners (have different gender) are linked by neither marriage nor romance. Men and women in senior management all work for long hours and are motivated by the desire for achievement and intrinsic enjoyment of work. “Young and Gartner firmly believe that leadership style has nothing to do with one’s sex. The founders of Gartner & Young, a small law firm that represents major corporations in labor matters, they agree that Gartner is more likely to be the consensus builder while Young is more likely to take the command approach” (Nelton S., 1991).

Leadership style is also determined by the types of operations executives run. If the leader oversees design and production, he seems to be more low-key than the other one who is responsible for sales, marketing, and finance. The second leader needs to be more intense and aggressive so as to increase the performance of apartments which he or she charges. If leaders’ responsibilities require more structure, they should be more strict and rigid. On the contrary, if they need to deal with creative people, they should be more fluid, spontaneous, and flexible. From a get-somebody’s-attention standpoint, it is beneficial for the leaders to be direct, no nonsense, and get on the table what they want.

8. Conclusion

In retrospect, males tended to be more task-oriented; females tended to be more relationship-oriented. Women tend to employ a more democratic, participative style while men tend to take a more autocratic, directive approach. Self-selection and adaptation are factors common to female leadership, while delegation and controlling are factors common to male leadership. Female leaders are more likely to be supporting and rewarding others, building team and consulting. Male leaders are better at solving problems, delegating, and influencing superiors.

Human flexibility combined with cultural experiences allows men and women the ability to do more or less what they choose versus being locked into stereotypical behaviors. For example, men are capable, although maybe not comfortable, working within organizations currently identified with women’s styles. Also, women can and do adapt to military leadership styles when required. Although there are lots of differences between male and female leaders, they can still successfully work together, to communicate effectively, and contribute equally to the work place.

Nowadays, more and more leaders become introspective but decisive, caring yet competent. Companies seem to understand giving the chances to a variety of leaders to grow and shine is good for business. All in all, whether a style is “masculine” or “feminine”, the best leadership style depends on the organization. A nontraditional leadership style can be effective in organizations that accept it. The most competitive organizations will take leaders wherever they find them, no matter what sex they are. That’s not only the essence of capitalism, but also the law of survival of the fittest.

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