Women Lead Differently … And That Is A Good Thing
If we are to achieve an increasing number of women in leadership positions, we need to acknowledge that men and women lead differently, and that it is a good thing.
The leadership style of women is collaborative, inclusive, and consultative. They focus on nurturing a strong team environment where ethical behaviour, quality and concern for each other is important. They use their gift of language to solicit commitment to achieving the common goals and value the results that come from a highly engaged team.
Men in a leadership role are more competitive and are focused on achievement of power and success through demonstration of results.
Over recent years, advancements in neuroscience has produced increasing evidence that men and women are, on average, innately different, leading to different natural characteristics, tendencies and talents.
In a nutshell… we think, act and lead differently.
And these differences appear to stem from our primitive beginnings. As early cave men and women, we had different jobs and tasks that required different skills. With centuries of natural selection, we have ended up with differences in our hormones and the architecture of our brains.
So let’s take a look the natural leadership skills common to women.
1. Web-like Thinking:
Research has shown that women tend to integrate vast amounts of data faster, consider more options and see more possible solutions to a problem. We tend to think in “webs” of information rather take a straight line or linear approach to thinking. This is likely to be related to the fact that the female brain has more connections between the left and right hemispheres.
Men, on the other hand, are more likely to focus their attention on one thing at a time. The higher levels of testosterone drive them to focus on one specific outcome … clearly developed back in the day when they were hunting the wilder beast for dinner.
2. Mental Flexibility
With our brain wired for “web-like thinking”, we are naturally gifted with mental flexibility … an essential ingredient needed in the dynamic, ever-shifting, fast paced modern business environment. Women have developed a gift for generating new ideas, creativity, ingenuity and imagination.
3. Gifted with the power of language
Women are born to talk and have developed the skill over many lifetimes to use the power of language. We use it to influence and persuade action, comfort those in need, educate and inform, bring people together to collaborate and sway minds and hearts.
This power over language emerges early in childhood with girls learning to speak sooner than boys. Research has also shown that our aptitude with language is linked to our higher levels of oestrogen.
4. General Social Skills
It may seem at times that women have an uncanny ability to read minds! It is because, to some degree, they do. Throughout the history of civilisation, the general role of women has been to create and nurture the extended family unit. The gift of this role is a highly developed innate ability to pick up and interpret the minute social and emotional cues that we give off.
5. Networking and Collaboration
You only need to attend a women’s networking event to see the power of women coming together to network and collaborate. Women enjoy working together for the greater good and see the power and the results that come from working cohesively together through a network of supportive connections.
Men, on the other hand, tend to focus on achieving power through rising to the top and value their rank and status. Men tend to be more competitive and focus on “winning”, while women tend to be more inclusive and supportive.
These traits have again been linked to hormones but also hark back to our history of different roles within our family unit.
So what is the impact of all this?
It is clear that men and women on average have different innate leadership styles. This is not to say that one is better than the other or that men don’t display a lot of the characteristics and talents that have been discussed, because they do.
This is more to look at and to celebrate the differences. It has been said that men and women are like two feet… they need each other to get ahead. Imagine if more women were to have a greater impact at the decision making table.
Imagine how the work environment – and the world for that matter – would be if women with their natural talents for web-like thinking, their ability to generate fresh ideas, their powerful language and their preference for achieving results through collaboration, were more prominent and represented more equally.
Many work environments continue to operate under a masculine paradigm, top heavy with men in positions of power. I believe it is time to embrace that men and women lead differently and to allow women to be true to their own skills and aptitudes.
While we continue to measure leadership success from a masculine point of view, we will miss out on the gifts, talents and the results that can be gained from embracing a well-rounded leadership team.