Numerous studies have been conducted looking at the differences in how men and women lead. Most have reached the same conclusion as this extensive study which followed male and female leaders for over a decade.
Female leaders consistently outranked their male counterparts in 12 of the top 16 traits and skills associated with effective leadership. Their leadership ability is also ranked as more effective overall than their male counterparts. So why aren’t there more women in top leadership roles? Why do female executives still account for less than 4% of CEOs?
Stereotypes and Bias
As I have discussed before, persistent social bias effects nearly every aspect of our lives and remains a significant obstacle for women who want to lead.
Gender roles have an enormous impact on how we rate males and females in leadership positions. Assertiveness, confidence and taking the initiative are still the top traits organisations look for in leaders. These are also the traits that are most often labelled as “male.”
Ironically, female leaders often score higher in these traits, yet, they are viewed negatively because of bias. Instead of being viewed as “strong,” women executives who exhibit these traits are labelled “pushy,” which hinders their career advancement.
Is Your Concept of Effective Leadership Outdated?
Gender bias also affects our concept of what effective leadership should look like. As corporate structures become flatter, more cooperative and interdependent, leadership styles have had to change, too.
We need leaders with high emotional intelligence to inspire and motivate their teams, engage with them, coach and empower them to increase their performance. These are traits where women outperform their male counterparts, yet gender bias remains.
To overcome this obstacle, women in top positions and their male allies must speak out. Leaders at every level must work to change and challenge their organisations, to continuously search for bias in their processes and procedures and eliminate it.
Feedback is invaluable when it comes to improving our personal performance. Women executives ask for feedback more often, but their managers are less likely to offer them direct, specific feedback in case it prompts an emotional response.
To be meaningful, feedback cannot be vague. It needs to be direct and tied to performance, such as business objectives and outcomes. Women need honest feedback, but they are less likely to receive it than their male counterparts, and this bias serves as a check on their advancement.
Female executives need to know exactly what they are doing right, and wrong so that they can focus on improvement in the right areas.
To be able to overcome this obstacle, women executives must push for more unbiased feedback. If they can’t count on their managers, female executives should look to trusted peers, outside coaching and other mentors to receive the honest, constructive feedback that they need.
We Hold Ourselves Back
Many of us are our own worst enemy. We doubt ourselves, or we hold onto the false belief that we should be modest and not celebrate our successes.
This is one area where male executives do outperform us. In general, men aren’t afraid to take credit for their wins. They are naturally adept at effectively managing their reputations and how others perceive them and their work.
This is another area where honest, objective feedback is critical. To silence your inner critic and build your self-esteem, ask a trusted peer, coach or mentor to help you evaluate your strengths. Set personal, measurable goals and periodically check your performance. When you meet or exceed your mark, celebrate it and let others in your organisation know just how great you truly are!
Successful Leaders Create Opportunities
Do you have opportunities to lead in your organisation? Has your self-development stalled, or, do you just need some extra guidance and support? Executive coaching is a great way to receive the unbiased, constructive feedback that you need to improve your results!
Talk with Linda today to learn more about how to focus on your best traits, gain confidence, and get the insight and strength you need to conquer stereotypes and drive positive change in your organisation.