Unleashing the Greatness, Within by Dr. Anita Davis-DeFoe
Making the rounds at cocktail parties, in boardrooms around the globe, at conference roundtables, even Sunday afternoons on a favorite beach, is the question, “Who Makes Better Leaders, Men or Women?”
A recent article in Psychology Today commented that women may make better leaders than men, and the expansive study conducted by Northwestern University, known for its Kellogg School of Management has tongues wagging in heavy debate.
The research findings are based on the conclusion that today’s global organizations thrive under the coaching of leaders highly competent in transformational managerial styles in contrast to old style, autocratic transactional management styles. Women it seems because of their socialization as nurturers tend to embody transformational management competencies more often than men. Men, in leadership roles it was noted, are more likely to dole out punishment for poor performance and rewards for good behavior, or exhibit an obvious laissez-faire style, one characterized by a basic lack of consistent and strategic management.
Organizational culture has made major shifts in recent years, as have the expectations and motivations of today’s worker. Seeking increased gratification from work; requiring greater life and work balance; desiring to use personal gifts and talents contributing to an organizational mission that is clearly articulated; and feeling that the organization is as equally concerned about its bottom line, as well as the individual‘s opportunity to explore and expand their personal and professional capacities, employee’s these days demand more from organizations in return for their loyalty. Organizations are grappling with formulating strategies which can foster the retention of their talent; are working furiously to reprogram their leadership, especially in response to generational melting pots quite common because economic realities force people to work more years; while striving to create engaging climates so that their knowledge and expertise does not constantly walk out of the door.
For years, women have sought to emulate men, donning power suits, carting masculine briefcases and making it point to show no emotion, for fear of not being taken seriously. Women have often been ridiculed for seeking input and the opinions of individuals at all levels in an organization before making a decision. Often classified as women simply being “chatty,” it seems that these actions are now recognized as collecting feedback, building consensus, encouraging a climate of team; elements that are now recognized as being critical to the emerging organizations of the 21st century.
In response to the findings, the editors at businessweek.com wrote, “You see, ever since the industrial revolution — or at least the 1930s — the organization had been markedly masculine. The dominant “mechanical school” of organizational theory, for example, was founded on such ideas as centralized authority, specialization and expertise, division of labor, principles, rules, and regulations. The emerging organization, however, was more feminine in gender because it was characterized by collaboration, the delegation of authority, empowerment, trust, openness, concern for the whole person, an emphasis on interpersonal relations, and the inevitability of interdependence.”
While men score well in some areas of leadership competency, such as technical analysis and strategic thinking, women leaders score exceeding well in goal setting, mentoring employees, to producing high-quality work, Harvard Business School Professor Rosabeth Moss Kanter, author of the 20-year old management classic, Men and Women of the Corporation notes, “Women get high ratings on exactly those skill’s needed to succeed in the global Information Age, where teamwork and partnering are so important.”
Even still, ironic enough, leadership competence is still evaluated in very stereotypical fashions by higher ups; men described as weak when they seek to coach and build consensus, and women called masculine when they exert powerful and aggressive behaviors. World wide, women leaders still lag behind the number of male leaders because while growing numbers of women are graduating with business degrees, too often they end up in human resources and public relations positions that do not lead to senior leadership career opportunities.
Organizational performance and leadership excellence are intimately connected, and whether male or female, if as a leader you are attempting to guide an organization using outdated strategies coupled with old world attitudes, competitive edge will be lost, while harnessing and maintaining your talent pool will be challenging.
What is your leadership IQ? And more importantly, do you know how to use it to bring about performance excellence across organizational systems with workforce engagement being one of the most critical aspects of the leadership question. Who makes a better leader? The individual willing to continuously scan the organizational environment, and use their managerial and leadership skills to achieve stellar results!