It’s no secret that men have held and continue to hold more leadership roles than women in business. Women have long struggled to be considered for high-level management positions and accepted as equally qualified as men. While women’s presence in leadership has risen perceptively over the years, they still have a long way to go.

Recent studies have been conducted to compare the effectiveness of men and women’s leadership skills, and the results challenge our reality. Women were found to be equally capable as men in leadership positions and significantly more successful in some areas.

Interestingly, men and women have some basic differences that distinguish them and affect the way they approach decision-making. Each has different qualities that they bring to the table, and neither group is innately superior. Men have utilized many distinctive attributes in their leadership styles, however, women have some very useful approaches that we can all add to our repertoire. 

Empathy 

Women have historically been known for their kindness and compassion. Women– more so than men– are recognized for their ability to acknowledge different perspectives and to consider alternate possibilities. In the past, women’s empathetic quality may have appeared as a weak position, many assumed that women weren’t as learned or experienced to take the lead. But who wants to follow a leader who isn’t kind or caring? 

Our human instinct to connect is rooted in the quality of empathy, and our workplaces can only prosper in its presence. Empathy allows teams to build deeper connections, understanding, and trust in both team dynamics and customer relations. Let’s forgo robotic leadership and take a note or two on women’s empathy, shall we?

Active Listening

The ability to listen– and I mean really listen— is a skill that requires curiosity, understanding, and patience. Having effective and clear communication is one of the most basic components of a successfully functioning team. Without strong listening skills, effective communication crumbles. Listening is more than hearing words, but requires understanding the motive behind the words, asking follow-up questions, and recognizing the emotions behind each response. 

Men have been labeled as poor listeners. An in-depth study by Forbes confirms the rumor that women are significantly more effective listeners than men. Lucky for men, listening skills can be learned, and some of the best mentors are already existing members of your team. 

Community

Many organizations are shifting away from the traditional hierarchy structure and reinvesting in team members as individuals. Companies are recognizing the importance of collaboration and diversity of ideas, and they are building new structures of psychological safety

While men may be more inclined to use a position of authority to demand results from team members and work independently, women are more likely to build community and consider suggestions from their entire team. The female instinct to connect with others and to value each person’s contribution has proven to be a more effective approach to successful decision-making. 

Purposeful Motivation

Men and women are inclined to take somewhat different approaches in the way they lead their people and motivate them to follow. While men are more inclined to improve performance by dangling carrots– like a promotion or raise– women inspire team members with the prospect of a larger meaning or purpose for their work. Transformational leadership is growing in popularity and influence, and women seem to be well aligned to promote and developteam members’ attitudes and behaviors. 

According to Harvard Business Review, “If men spent more time trying to win people’s hearts and souls, leading with both EQ and IQ, as opposed to leaning more on the latter, and nurturing a change in beliefs rather than behaviors, they would be better leaders.” While the logical side of the brain is required in leadership, an emotional appeal to team members can have amazing effects on a team’s motivation. 

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Men are not bound by the tendencies, rumors, or even studies done about men. Women, too, are not chained to the majorities or generalizations of their gender. While not all the above assumptions of men and women hold true for each individual, the natural behaviors often found in women are ones in which all genders can learn and grow. Expanding our horizons and opening our minds to the different leadership approaches is what will make us all better leaders. Men have their accomplishments and valid reasons for applause, but women’s past struggles and growing acceptance will only benefit the workplace of the future.

Collaborative work settings, motivation with a purpose, and leading with empathy are all pillars of Knowted’s approach to professional development. For more information on how Knowted can improve your leadership skills and workplace environment, check out our products and services.

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