Are Women Better Leaders?
Why do many incompetent men become leaders? Asks Dr Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic, an international authority in personality profiling and psychometric testing, in a recent Harvard Business Review. The truth of the matter is that pretty much anywhere in the world men tend to think that they that are much smarter than women. Yet, he argues, arrogance and overconfidence are inversely related to leadership talent.
August 30 2013 by ChiefExecutive.net
Chamorro-Premuzic , a professor of Business Psychology at University College London (UCL), and VP of Research and Innovation at Hogan Assessment Systems, previously taught at the London School of Economics and New York University. Women he believes usually have better emotional intelligence. “A quantitative review of gender differences in personality involving more than 23,000 participants in 26 cultures indicated that women are more sensitive, considerate, and humble than men, which is arguably one of the least counter-intuitive findings in the social sciences. An even clearer picture emerges when one examines the dark side of personality: for instance, our normative data, which includes thousands of managers from across all industry sectors and 40 countries, shows that men are consistently more arrogant, manipulative and risk-prone than women.”
The best leaders he thinks are those that are usually humble and either through nature or nurture this trait is much more common in women than men. Women also have the ability to build and maintain high-performing teams, and to inspire followers to set aside their selfish agendas in order to work for the common interest of the group.
So why aren’t there more women leaders? Contrary to Cheryl Sandberg’s advice in her popular book Lean In, women shouldn’t be adopting the dysfunctional behaviors of men. “Most of the character traits that are truly advantageous for effective leadership are predominantly found in those who fail to impress others about their talent for management, “ he writes. “This is especially true for women. There is now compelling scientific evidence for the notion that women are more likely to adopt more effective leadership strategies than do men. Most notably, in a comprehensive review of studies, Alice Eagly and colleagues showed that female managers are more likely to elicit respect and pride from their followers, communicate their vision effectively, empower and mentor subordinates, and approach problem-solving in a more flexible and creative way (all characteristics of “transformational leadership”), as well as fairly reward direct reports. In contrast, male managers are statistically less likely to bond or connect with their subordinates, and they are relatively more inept at rewarding them for their actual performance. Although these findings may reflect a sampling bias that requires women to be more qualified and competent than men in order to be chosen as leaders, there is no way of really knowing until this bias is eliminated.”
In sum, Chamorro-Premuzic says there is “no denying that women’s path to leadership positions is paved with many barriers including a very thick glass ceiling. But a much bigger problem is the lack of career obstacles for incompetent men, and the fact that we tend to equate leadership with the very psychological features that make the average man a more inept leader than the average woman.”
Women CEOs that Chief Executive have spoken with over the years take a much more nuanced view. For starters, most bristle at the notion that they should be viewed differently from their male counterparts. Competence is competence as far as most are concerned. And it should not surprise anyone that the advice they give is equally applicable to men. Frontier Communications CEO Maggie Wilderotter offers the following for women coming up the executive ranks:
Refuse to be invisible. Take high-profile assignments and make sure your contributions are recognized and acknowledged. There’s a balance between hubris and humility. Find it.
Absolutely, positively gain field expertise. There is no substitute for P&L responsibility. It has to be a big part of your work experience if you want to rise to the C-suite.
Network. Every encounter is qa chance to make a connection. Attend events that attract CEOs. Build relationships and follow-up.
Pursue a board seat. Get to know the nominating committees of the boards of companies that interest you.
Her advice not only worked for Wilderotter but also for her sister Denise Morrison, the freshly minted CEO of Campbell Soup who succeed Doug Conant.