More Women Than Men Are Supportive, Inspiring Leaders

Marketing to Women: Addressing Women and Women's Sensibilities, September 2003 | Go to article overview

More Women Than Men Are Supportive, Inspiring Leaders


The paucity of women in leadership positions in corporate America is an ongoing problem, and a chief reason why many women are leaving the corporate sector altogether to start their own businesses. While entrenched corporate decision-makers may still have trouble envisioning women as leaders, their companies are missing out on superior leadership, according to a meta-analysis of management studies by psychology professors at Northwestern University and Tilburg University (Netherlands), published in Psychological Bulletin 2003.

The study, which analyzes the results of 45 published and unpublished studies of male and female managerial behavior, finds that women and men demonstrate equal capacities to fulfill managerial functions, but that women's tendency to use a "transformational" style of leadership gives them an edge as managers.

Other studies on management styles in business settings have demonstrated the positive impact of transformational leadership on the success of organizations. The three leadership styles discussed in this study are:

Transformational leaders

* Act as role models and make efforts to gain the trust and confidence of the people they manage.

* Communicate goals and develop specific plans to achieve them.

* Display optimism and excitement about goals and future plans.

* Examine new perspectives for solving problems and completing tasks (encourage innovation).

* Show concern for the people they manage; act as mentors and encourage their workers to develop professionally.

Transactional leaders

* Attach rewards and punishments to behavior.

* Active transactional managers discuss problems/failures right away, while passive transactional managers wait until problems become severe before addressing them.

Laissez-faire leaders

* Have little interaction with people they manage.

* Frequently absent and generally uninvolved with workers, even during critical junctures. overall, 52.5% of female leaders demonstrate above-averge transformational qualities, compared to 47.5% of male leaders. Few leaders of either gender display the less-effective transactional and laissez-faire leadership styles, but of these, men are significantly more likely than women to do so.

Women score more highly than men on several aspects of transformational leadership, including optimism about goals and future projects, encouragement of innovation, a focus on mentoring the people they manage, and demonstration of qualities that engender respect and pride in being associated with them. …

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More Women Than Men Are Supportive, Inspiring Leaders
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