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Leadership & Gender

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By Laura Phillips

Introduction

 

            Certain leadership traits and characteristics are present in every leader, whether they are men or women. There are many similarities in the way that men and women act as leaders; however, gender affects certain leadership traits, just as the environment or heredity would (Durbin, Daglish & Miller, 2006, p.p.47), resulting in differences in the leadership styles between the genders. Many people believe in the common stereotype that leaders of organisations are usually men, as “leadership is a term not normally associated with women” (Still, 1996, p.p1), due to the fact that leadership and management first originated at a time when the workforce was fundamentally dominated by a male culture, as described by Still (1996). Female leaders also need to compete with masculine images of leadership that tend to dominate the perceptions of today’s society, as well as their own perceptions (Manning, 2002, p.p.207). Many researchers have assumed that gender is an important personality trait that influences the type of leadership style used (Park, 1996, p.p.13). With the growing presence of women in the international workforce and considering the trend towards flatter, team based organisations (Trinidad & Normore, 2005, p.p.574-575), the difference between men and women’s leadership styles is becoming more and more important due to increased workplace diversity. The similarities and differences between men and women’s leadership styles are discussed further.

  

 

Male Leadership Styles

            Male leaders are proposed to be transactional leaders who use a “directive command and control style” (Robbins, Millett & Waters-Marsh, 2004, p.p373) of leadership. The masculine style of leadership demonstrates a form of aggressiveness and independence with the process of being objective, analytical, logical, rational and decisive (Park, 1996, p.p.13). Rosner (cited in Still, 1996, p.p.5) put forward that a transactional leader was one that perceived the job performance as a series of transactions with employees that resulted in punishment depending on the performance outcome, showing a more militaristic form of leadership (Durbin, Daglish & Miller, 2006, p.p.47). Male leaders tend to show success by working long hours, being analytical and orientated towards making a profit, and are more involved with a management-by-exception leadership style (Walumbwa, Wu & Ojode, 2004, p.p.126).

Male leaders who exemplify the discipline of leadership are:

      Richard Branson                                                                    

      Indira Gandhi                                                 

      Martin Luther King

      Steve Irwin

      Winston Churchill

 

Richard Branson
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Great Leader & Innovator

Edith Cowan
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Leader for Women & Children's Rights

Female Leadership Styles

             Female leaders tend to exhibit a transformational leadership style which is a more democratic way of leading (Robbins, Millett & Waters-Marsh, 2004, p.p373). As transformational leaders, women demonstrate qualities that are inclined to nurture personal and group achievement through sharing inspirational stories and visions and fostering commitment and motivation towards achieving goals (Manning, 2002, p.p.208). Their style is concerned with cooperation, empowering team members to enhance self worth and encouraging participation (Durbin, Daglish & Miller, 2006, p.p.47 & Robbins, Millett & Waters-Marsh, 2004, p.p373), demonstrating them as participative leaders who prefer a more participative work environment with the employees, i.e. a more co-operative style of leadership to result in a quality product (Durbin, Daglish & Miller, 2006, p.p.47). Women rely on their interpersonal skills and their feminine characteristics such as being “emotional, sensitive, sensitive, expressive, cooperative, intuitive, and warm and a tactful nature” (Park, 1996, p.p.13) to use in the workplace to create a more relationship orientated environment. Therefore, their leadership style is characteristic of transformational leadership due to the fact that they have the ability to drive the “motivation of followers to higher levels of effort” (Davidson & Griffin, 2003, p.p.585) as well as having the ability to inspire them to exceed their own expectations and self interests and exert extra effort. Female leaders have also been shown to give praise to group members (Durbin, Daglish & Miller, 2006, p.p.48) more than male leaders. This may be the reason why subordinates or followers under female leaders have reported greater job and organisational satisfaction, as well as women being more empowering than men (Manning, 2002, p.p.208), as transformational leaders aim to bring out the best in their followers.

Some examples of great female leaders include:

      Margaret Thatcher                               

      Florence Nightingale

      Edith Cowan

      Queen Elizabeth 1st

      Hillary Clinton

 As transformational leaders, women have also been identified as displaying more charismatic behaviour than men (Durbin, Daglish & Miller, 2006, p.p.48) as they exhibit sensitivity towards the environment and their follower’s needs, as well as articulating their vision in a friendly manner.

 

 

 

Similarities of leadership Styles

            In today’s workforce, all leaders need to demonstrate the ability to be flexible, engage in teamwork, show trust and be trustworthy as well as being able to listen, motivate and provide support to their followers (Robbins, Millett & Waters-Marsh, 2004, p.p373). Men and women provide all these qualities as leaders, however they choose to engage in them through different behaviours and styles of leadership. Evidence also shows that as females move up the corporate ladder, they become more masculine in their approach to leadership, e.g. Margaret Thatcher was very confident, determined and decisive in her approach to leadership (Robbins, Millett & Waters-Marsh, 2004, p.p338). They are also many male leaders who demonstrate relationship-orientated leadership, that are characteristic of women. Men also show great charisma as leaders, not just women, e.g. Richard Branson and Steve Irwin. Also, men and women’s leadership styles may not be as different as first thought as their leadership styles can be dependant on the situation they are in, which may explain the lack of consistency between them. For example, men are more appropriate in military settings, whereas the female style of leadership may not be so effective in this situation (Durbin, Daglish & Miller, 2006, p.p.49).

 

Conclusion 

            In conclusion, it is clear that men and women leaders must portray the necessary personality traits needed to be a successful leader, however, their behaviours differ when carrying out leadership practices, with men being more transactional, and women more transformational leaders. Both styles are effective at reaching organisational or personal goals but through a different style. Nevertheless, these styles can merge between men and women and are not exclusive to either gender, and can be depend on the situation the leader finds themselves in. Neither gender makes a better leader than the other.        

 

References

Durbin, A.J., Daglish, C., & Miller, P. (2006) Leadership (2nd Asia-Pacific ed.)Australia, QLD: John Wiley & Sons Australia, Ltd

 

Manning, T.T. (2002) Gender, managerial level, transformational leadership and work satisfaction. Women in Management Review 17 (5) 207-216

 

Park, D. (1996) Gender role, decision, style and leadership style. Women in Management Review 11 (8) 13-17

 

Still, L.V. (1996) Women as Leaders: Women in leadership series, 4 1-7.

 

Trinidad, C., & Normore, A.H. (2005) Leadership and gender: A dangerous liaison? Leadership & Organisation Development Journal 26 (7) 574-590

 

Walumbwa, F.O., Wu, C., Ojode, L.A. (2004) Gender and Instructional Outcomes: The mediating role of leadership style. Journal of Management Development 23 (2) 124-140

 

 

 

 

 

By Laura Phillips, Kathleen Varela and Zoe Cooper