Women have often been compared to lionesses. Like the elegant cat, women are hunters and defenders within the “Pride” and understand that there is power in numbers. Lionesses are responsible for bringing home the bacon (or a take-out Zebra dinner) and tending the den. It’s a big job.
Women, like lionesses, take on roles of leadership within their groups that contrast the typical male domination model. Women wear the hats of community builders and mentors too. These distinct differences and the worldwide changes in business have resulted in a tremendous amount of interest and controversy over the best the way to manage people. Do men lead better than women, or have women taken the top seat by utilizing their authentic leadership style?
The expectations and social stereotypes still strongly influence people’s perceptions that “women leaders take care, men leaders take charge.” Is this all bad? Approaches to leadership are changing and “men in leadership positions are also realizing that the old way of leading – taking charge (command and control) – may not be as effective in today’s world and in the future.”
From her research, Dr. Alice Eagly contends that, “women are more likely than men to possess the leadership qualities that are associated with success. That is, women are more transformational than men – they care more about developing their followers, they listen to them and stimulate them to think “outside the box,” they are more inspirational, AND they are more ethical.”
Divergent leadership styles
Women approach leadership roles transformationally, whereas men are typically more transactional.
Transactional leaders are those who believe that people are motivated by reward or punishment. This leader is focused on self and what can be gained by directing their subordinates. It is a matter of dolling out directives and expecting their followers to fulfill them.
Transformational leaders, in contrast, is an approach that focuses on creating a positive and valuable environment in which subordinates can be developed into future leaders. In order to optimize performance, this leader fosters collaboration, where individuals are encouraged to make contributions in their areas of strength and to take ownership for their work.
Women thrive in the role of being role models and their approach to leadership is being acknowledged and more highly valued as companies strive to make positive changes in the workplace. “In today’s organizations, flexibility, teamwork, trust and information sharing are replacing rigid structures, competitive individualism, control and secrecy. The best leaders listen, motivate and provide support to their people.” Plenty of studies confirm that happy workers are productive workers.
Women DO NOT need to try to be more like men in order to successfully lead in business. Businesses are moving away from the hierarchical model. “…authentic leadership is the most important factor women can maintain to rise as leaders for society…women should not feel that they must act passively to conform to traditional ideas of female leadership. Rather, they must be true to themselves and realize their influence as leaders.”
What type of leader are you?
If you are wondering whether you have what it takes to be a natural transformational leader answer the following questions from Dr. Riggio on the subject:
1. I would never require a follower to do something that I wouldn’t do myself.
2. My followers would say that they know what I stand for.
3. Inspiring others has always come easy to me.
4. My followers have told me that my enthusiasm and positive energy are infectious.
5. My followers would say that I am very attentive to their needs and concerns.
6. Even though I could easily do a task myself, I delegate it to expand my followers’ skills.
8. I encourage my followers to question their most basic way of thinking.
If you answered Yes to most or all of the questions your tendency is to transform your groups, which is something you should be proud to do.
Women face different challenges in business than men across the board. I don’t say this to leave women feeling defeated or like they must constantly be battle ready. I say this because women need to understand that the value they have to offer the business world is worth sharing despite the uphill climb. Every woman, who is brave enough to take a stand to make a difference for our future no matter how big or small, deserves respect, admiration and support from both genders. Be a lioness in your corner of the marketplace and create the change you wish to see in the world by taking the lead.
For more information on the future of leadership check out the great article from the Harvard Business Review.
© 2010 Reece International LLC/Dr. Shannon Reece. All rights reserved.
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