There are unique qualities and abilities that women bring to leadership that given the opportunity provide them with a competitive advantage to effective leadership. Like many who grew up in a Hispanic household, I was raised by a strong-willed, hardworking and purpose-driven woman. I witnessed her anticipate challenges, manage crisis, and redirect as needed when things didn’t go as planned, but amongst all I saw her never give up. I believe many of these strengths are in women and thus women leaders albeit innately or fostered through their experiences resulting in great leadership. In fact, a recent update to a Zenger Folkman study of thousands of leaders around the world found that women are considered more effective leaders than men. While of course there are no absolutes to these findings, here are 5 reasons that likely to contribute to women being regarded as better leaders
1. Women are More Engaged
Studies consistently find that women are more engaged at work than their male counterparts. Most recently, a Gallup Poll found that where 41% of female leaders are engaged at work, only 35% of male leaders were found to be at the same level of engagement. The same study found that employees who work for a women leader are 6% points more engaged, than those who work for a male leader. Engaged leaders are enthusiastic and passionate about their work, and committed to their organization; and these statistics make it clear that not only does the organization benefit from a women’s level of engagement, so do its employees. While there has been no clear basis identified as to why women are more engaged, what we do know is that with all that women often sacrifice and experience on their path to leadership, it’s no wonder that they would seek commitment and purpose for their work, for their employees and from their organization.
2. Women are Empathetic
Being empathetic is the act of purposely taking the time to comprehend someone else’s feelings, attitudes or thoughts – understanding what it means to be that person in that situation. Taking it a step further, an empathetic leader, will appreciate where people are coming from and take that into account when making decisions or giving direction. As nurturers, women often feel a responsibility for ensuring that employees are successful at work, but also feel cared about personally. When you demonstrate to an employee that you care about them, they will care about getting the work done. This empathy leads employees giving you their best because they feel as though they are being regarded as more than just a number on a P&L, but rather an actual person.
3. Women are Natural Multi-Taskers
It’s been scientifically proven that women are master multi-taskers and with that better at juggling multiple priorities at the same time. Leaders are constantly pulled in numerous directions with expectations to meet the demands and needs of various stakeholders without losing sight of the primary goals; from executive leadership, board of directors, and customers to the employees that are responsible for bringing the goals of the organization to fruition. The fact that women must often juggle the demands of family life such as pregnancies, children or caring for aging parents with work life, is demonstrative of the many priorities and responsibilities they can carry and the ability to excel as leaders in all facets of life.
4. Women are Team Builders
Team building is necessary to meeting the needs of an organization. Successful leaders recognize that it is the effectiveness of the people around them and their ability to come together towards a common goal that will drive an organization’s success. This emphasis on collaboration and connectedness are characteristics traditionally associated with women who are often recognized as consensus builders and connectors. Team building is often that effort that occurs behind the scenes but is vital to productivity. When employees have a strong relationship with their co-workers, they will work together to the benefit of the organization.
5. Women are Overcomers
As women progress in their careers they face obstacles that men never will. To obtain the same respect, recognition, and advancement opportunities as men, women must constantly prove their value by performing twice as well, leaving no room for error. They often do so while dealing with being regularly discounted and disregarded and yet as Maya Angelou would say, “[they still] rise”, and thrive in the face of adversity. All leaders will face challenging times when things don’t go according to plan; effective leaders know you must push through that and endure without failure being an option. The strength that women develop through their unique experiences to persevere and drive positive results is what gives women an edge in effective leadership and long-term success.
These are but a few of the many reasons why women make great leaders. It’s not to say that there aren’t men that either have or develop some of these very characteristics or are great leaders in their own right. However, qualities that are innate in women as well as their experiences in a male-centric world of work, uniquely situate women to do great things for organizations as leaders and peers.