gender leadership styles: is it really man versus vs. woman?



Communication skills: (45 percent of men and 49 percent of women)Effective leaders frequently exude an identifiable style. Female leaders are often known for their ability to listen and multitask, while their male counterparts are praised for being strong and aggressive.But do valuable leadership qualities stem from gender or are they developed over time from life experiences? In a recent Forbes article, Lisa Serwin, CEO at AppMedicin, makes an argument for the latter and expresses her concern “that media—not to mention we the reader—may be trivializing things a bit when we laud the ‘womanly’ style of a female CEO.” In fact, genders often agree on the qualities needed to be a successful leader. According to our most recent Randstad engagement study, both male and female respondents identified the same top three qualities needed to be an effective leader, including:

  • Problem solving skills (35 percent men, 34 percent women)
  • Ability to foster a teamwork environment (27 percent men, 32 percent women)

Leadership Styles of Effective Women (and Men) Leaders Some of today’s most powerful men and women executives are known to exhibit the top leadership qualities identified in Randstad’s survey. For example:

 marissa_new41     Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer: The Great Communicator 

Mayer is well-known for her ability to effectively communicate via public speaking and motivate those around her. A 2012 Forbes article described her this way: “Mayer isn’t just a good listener. She actively invites her employees to help build the brand … She is an exceptional storyteller and presenter.”

mary-barra_620x434   GM CEO Mary Barra: The Problem Solver 

Barra rose to the top job in the American auto industry because of her solutions-based approach to leadership. Forbes said she wasn’t a dictator, but rather a “soft-spoken, math-loving nerd with a passion for problem-solving.” In a 2011 Forbes interview, Barra said: “I know what this place can be. I know what it’s capable of. I know how hard people work. We just have to be sure we’re working on the right things.”

zuckerberg  Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg: The Team Leader

The 30-year-old billionaire co-founded Facebook in a Harvard University dorm, but as he developed the social network that is now used by 1.23 billion people around the world, he kept in mind that his success hinged on working as part of a strong team. For example, in an Elite Daily article, Zuckerberg is quoted as saying: “One definition that I have for a good team is a group of people that makes better decisions as a whole than they would individually make.” It’s Not One or the Other – It’s Both So if strong leadership styles are not based on gender, what factors make a good leader? According to a Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University article, there’s no value in “leading collaboratively in a more ‘female’ style vs. competitively in a more ‘male’ style.”

“You don't want someone who's so focused on inclusion that they can’t make a decision, or someone who’s so driven that they don’t include others as they make critical decisions." -Nicholas Pearce, a clinical assistant professor of management and organizations at the Kellogg School of Management.
“Sometimes hardened resolve is critical, and other times listening and engaging is critical,” said Nicholas Pearce, a clinical assistant professor of management and organizations at the Kellogg School of Management. “It's not ‘one or the other,’  it's ‘both’—being able to enact different leadership styles given the needs of the moment.”