Do women make better leaders than men?

Throughout the world, whether in business or in government, most of our leaders are men. Right now we have our fair share of despots, but throughout the ages there have always been despots.

I’m not a man so I don’t know how ‘tough’ it is to be a man. I’m sure they have their stresses and grievances also, I’m sure they must feel undervalued and taken for granted at times.

I remember once attending a personal growth gathering of men and women, when a male speaker asked us all to think about what our fathers would have done differently with their lives if they hadn’t had to support a family. And the room went very quiet. That question hit all of us quite deeply. Because our fathers and grandfathers did bear burdens for their families. They fought in wars; they probably also worked in jobs they hated just to put food on the table. Many of them probably also worked for ungrateful bosses. They too probably felt harassed and bullied at times.

So this isn’t meant to be a put down of the good male leaders of which there are many but in an article by Jack Zenger CEO and Joseph Folkman president of Zenger/Folkman in HBR, a leadership development consultancy, they quote their latest survey of 7,280 leaders they evaluated in 2011. The study confirmed some ‘truths about men and women leaders in the workplace but also holds some surprises’.

They surveyed leaders in successful and progressive organisations in the public and private arena; in government and commercial organisations both domestic and international. They asked for comparisons between male and female leaders from peers, bosses, direct reports  and other associates.

At all levels women rated higher then men in virtually all of the 16 competencies Zenger and Folkman had defined as the competencies for success. In fact men outscored women in only one area – the ability to develop a strategic perspective. In other areas such as ‘takes initiative; practices self development; displays high integrity and honesty; drives for results; develops others’ women outperformed their male counterparts.

Zinger and Folkman then went on to share their findings with a group of women outside the survey asking them why they though women had rated this way. The responses were:

“We need to work harder than men to prove ourselves.”

“We feel the constant pressure to never make a mistake, and to continually prove our value to the organization.”

And to further stress that expectations of women in leadership is tougher for women, ECI (Ethics and Compliance Initiative) conducted a study to find out how male and female leaders are committed to ethics in their workplace.

They discovered from the survey results that men and women ‘are about equally committed to ethics in the workplace, but female leaders face much greater ethics risks that male counterparts.’ That ….

  • Women in senior leadership positions are more likely than men at the same level to feel pressure to compromise company ethics standards and/or the law,
  • Women are more likely to experience retaliation for reporting misconduct, and
  • Women are more likely to doubt their leaders’ commitment to workplace integrity.

I’d just finished reading Hillary Clinton’s ‘What Happened’ because I simply couldn’t believe that she was beaten in the recent Presidential run. She won every debate hands down, and yet as I watched those various debates I remembered thinking that she said one controversial thing when she used the phrase ‘basket of deplorables’ and was berated up hill and down dale for it. Yet at every opportunity Trump was doing his name calling and belittling of everyone he met including a handicapped journalist and no-one, it appears, told Donald that this was absolutely not ok.

Imagine if Hillary had created some form of chant about Trump that had audiences berating and ridiculing him. How would he and his supporters have handled that?  But that wasn’t her way. She made one mistake with her e.mails; which she acknowledged and which led to the famous ‘lock her up’ chant. Trump still Tweets every day on an unsafe android phone and  continues to break every norm and every rule in the book without a murmer from his voters or the GOP. Clinton says that she has a sign in her house that says:

It’s hard to be a woman
You must think like a man
Act like a lady
Look like a young girl
And work like a horse   (unknown)

In my own experience I’ve met great leaders of both genders, and similarly I’ve met terrible leaders of both genders.

Perhaps it stands out more if a woman behaves badly, or perhaps society treats women more harshly or expects more of them. Perhaps when there are more women in leadership we won’t stand out so much and perhaps then we will be taken seriously. Perhaps then we will take the mess the world is currently in and straighten it out so that there is a planet left for our daughters and grand-daughters to inherit.

‘Some leaders are born women.’ – Geraldine Ferrero

Ann Andrews CSP a speaker, author, profiler and futurist. She has a 30+ year history of working in the HR field specialising in working with high performing teams. Ann has always believed that if a team isn’t working; mentor the team leader. If a company isn’t functioning – coach the owner or CEO, and if a country is in chaos and melt-down, elect a new country leader.

You can find Ann’s book “Lessons in Leadership: 50 ways to avoid falling into the ‘Trump’ trap on Amazon – Hard copy or if you prefer Kindle version.

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