From John Knights – Chairman, LeaderShape:
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Recent research publicised in the UK’s The Sunday Times, sourced from Barclays Wealth & Investment Management Survey http://thetim.es/14ne1Jt explains that the top self-made women (entrepreneurs) earn more than the top men by 17% whereas the top corporate women leaders earn 21% less than their male equivalents.
This suggests that if we remove the cultural restraints of the male dominated corporate world, women perform better than men in the 21st century. It is interesting to also note that 6% of women in the UK are entrepreneurs (up from 4% in 2008) compared to 12% of men in the UK and 10% of women in the USA.
According to this research woman entrepreneurs – compared to equivalent men – take less bank loans, own companies that are more likely to be sustainable, and are more driven by a work-life balance than generation of wealth.
I am not surprised by these findings (even though they are not beyond question) as it is consistent with my own experience of conducting many 360o LEIPA Assessments and coaching women leaders (more than men over the last 5 years). I do believe women probably have naturally more of the “softer” attributes of leadership needed in the 21st century, but they need to overcome a few barriers to help them make the most of their potential.
Our own research at LeaderShape analysed in detail the data from our LEIPA 360o Assessment tool LEIPA of 97 leaders. This shows there is little difference between male and female leaders in the eyes of the people who work with and for them – although again this could be to some extent because of the different expectations raters have of men and women. This is generally supported by neuroscience which so far shows little difference between male and female brains except related to reproductive functions.
Analysing 92 statements covering 19 emotional intelligence capabilities we only found a significant difference in two of the 19. In Emotional Self Control, men seemed to do better (although on further interrogation it could be that men can more effectively hide their emotions rather than manage them better in a more positive way).
The one area where women are superior is in Service Orientation.
The definition of “Service Orientation” according to Goleman et al (The New Leaders, 2002) is:
Leaders high in the service competence foster an emotional climate so that people directly in touch with the customer or client will keep the relationship on the right track. Such leaders monitor customer or client satisfaction carefully to ensure they are getting what they need. They also make themselves available as needed.
This specifically identifies women as better at customer service and client care (including internal customers) – an absolute essential to a successful and sustainable business.
Surprisingly (to us) women did not feature as better at Empathy than men. This maybe again be due to the expectation of raters but a more likely explanation is that where for many men understanding other people is not high on the agenda, women often confuse it with sympathy – ie. the focus is on sharing another person’s feeling rather than understanding them. In a business environment understanding how someone feels and why can be much more powerful in helping that person towards solutions as compared to sharing their emotions.
A critical aspect of successful leadership where women need to improve is Self-Confidence. And here I am talking about an inner self confidence (“I am happy with who I am”) rather than the macho definition of “I’m the greatest”.
My own qualitative view based on working with many women leaders is that women themselves are generally much less self-confident than the perception they give to the outside world. This is true of many men also but not to the same extent. Women tend to care very much about what people think and say about them (stone-age instincts around their nurturing and community role) and are often anxious about that – whereas men tend to care less. A good driver of course for why women are so service-oriented.
In fact, we have found that a 360o assessment process for a competent woman can be the most valuable intervention of all to increase self-confidence, as it provides proof and reassurance that the people around them think they are operating to a high quality. I have seen many women really blossom as leaders after completing a 360o assessment. Even better if it is part of an integrated coaching, leadership development and/or women’s peer group programme.
Women also tend to be more dedicated than men at working on their development areas. This often positively impacts their approach to change, risk and conflict.
We are currently expanding the number of leaders for the basis of our research and specifically focusing more on the aspects of self-confidence.
But any future results are unlikely to change my view that a good mixture of men and women make the best leadership teams even if the women have “less experience” as they make up for it with common sense and intuition ..… as long as they have the confidence to speak up!!!