Leadership and Women

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There are numerous success stories of outperforming businesswomen. In a male dominated world of business, politics, arts, science and many other fields, it is really creditable that women are able to hold their own. With odds stacked up against them, merely on account of the female sex being branded as weaker of the two, there is no dearth of fearless women who exhibit daunting spirits and accept challenges envied by the ablest of men. Powerful political leaders of the past include; Golda Meir, Margaret Thatcher, Sirimavo Bandaranaike, Benazir Bhutto, Condoleezza Rice, Helen Clark and Indira Gandhi. On similar level, today we have Angela Merkel, Julia Gillard, Hillary Clinton and Janet Napolitano. Likewise, we have the examples of highly successful business leaders like Christine Lagarde, Marian Pierre, Carol Bartz, Carly Fiorina, Ellen Kullman Indra Nooyi, Pat Woertz, Linda Miller and most recently, Virginia Rometty and Marissa Mayer. In Mayer’;s case, Yahoo didn’;t budge an inch in appointing her as the CEO in July 2012, even when she was six months pregnant then!

In the modern world of business, which is now global and intensely competed, there are even more women today than any time in the past. How do these women do it?  While there is no magical secret to success, there are certainly characteristics that the successful women have in common. Women are born to take responsibilities and perform them flawlessly. They are calm and collected, work full time and can easily manage everything without a crease on their forehead. They are determined, resourceful, engaging, ambitious and confident about the tasks cut out for them. By their upbringing, women are multi-taskers, which is a great positive for them. In just one comparison with their male counterparts, women are more willing to explore compromises and to solicit other people’;s opinions than men, while a man’s mind-set is wrongly tilted against asking for advice and suggestions for an unexplained fear of being perceived as unsure. Men still get carried away by a wrong notion that leaders should have all the answers.

Researchers, on the subject of leadership based on gender, have investigated the relative functional styles and strengths of women and men. Some findings have proposed a role congruity theory which points out the association of female leadership with communal characteristics of nicety and compassion as contrasted to the traditional leadership style of assertiveness and competition. Female attributes of nurturing, being sensitive, empathetic, intuitive, compromising, caring, cooperative, and accommodating are increasingly associated with effective administration. But there are still areas where women face resistance. However, women are slowly learning to take this handicap in their stride. Since gender is a hindrance to women leaders, some women have changed their style and adapted themselves on leading the same way as men do because that is considered the norm. This is the easiest way for a woman to be hired for administrative positions or any position of leadership, especially since this approach to leadership has repeatedly been established as acceptable to the public and found successful in attracting promotion and recognition.

For a woman, success primarily means the ability to change the lives of others. This is a great motivation for a woman as she can see her efforts transformed into a cordial workplace and boosted employee morale. Women are not particularly motivated by money or the size of the organizations, and though they appreciate being recognized for their work, prestige does not drive them. Since men and women have different leadership styles, the variances do not mean that one has dominance over the other. While women embrace relationships, believe in sharing ideas and seeking help when required, men focus on completing tasks, achieving goals, hoarding information, and winning. Women leaders focus on instructional leadership, and men, more often, emphasize organizational matters. Men in leadership positions tend to lead from the front, attempting to have all the answers for their subordinates. Women lean toward facilitation of leadership, enabling others to make their contributions through delegation, encouragement, and nudging from behind. Because women’s main focus is on relationships, they interact more frequently than men with teachers, students, parents, non-parent community members, professional colleagues, subordinates and bosses. Men, on the other hand, stress task accomplishment and tend to lead through a series of concrete exchanges that involved rewarding employees for a job well done and punishing them for an inadequate job performance. Many women support contributory consensual decision-making and lay emphasis on the process, while men lean toward majority rule and emphasize on the goal. Men utilize the traditional top-down administrative style, while women are more interested in transforming people’s self-interest into organizational goals by encouraging feelings of self-worth, active participation, and sharing of power and information. Hats off to women leaders!

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