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Leadership and the Sexes From Marissa Mayer’s high profile people-management decisions in her role as Yahoo’s CEO to Sheryl Sandberg’s provocative assertions in her recent book Lean In, there continues to be a lot of debate about leadership and the sexes – and whether men and women lead differently. Although there’s some hype and “drama” surrounding this topic, it’s a critical one to explore, since it impacts our ability to drive critical changes in these chaotic times.
Consider three intriguing sets of research findings:
As reported in the Harvard Business Review “Many believe that bias against women lingers in the business world, particularly when it comes to evaluating their leadership ability…To our surprise, we found the opposite: As a group, women outshone men in most of the leadership dimensions measured. There was one exception, however, and it was a big one: Women scored lower on ‘envisioning’—the ability to recognize new opportunities and trends in the environment and develop a new strategic direction for an enterprise.”
In contrast, Dension Consulting, the global leader in culture change and assessment, has found that women are rated higher on all leadership dimensions than their male counterparts. However, men rate themselves stronger on “having a mission” and “adaptability” (traits associated with strategic leadership), while women rate themselves stronger on “involvement” and “consistency” (traits associated with people leadership and tactical execution).
Similarly, in the June issue of this newsletter I shared findings based on the CQ/Change Intelligence Assessment, that men are significantly more likely to report acting as Visionary Change Leaders (focusing on long-term goals), and women as Coaches and Facilitators (focusing on people and implementing short-term objectives.
What can we make of these findings – and how do they impact our roles, behaviors and attitudes as leaders? Both Denison’s and my research demonstrate that men and women perceive themselves differently as leaders – men focusing more on purpose, women on people and process. In other words, men tend to focus on results, women on relationships that facilitate results.
And, at least according to the Harvard study, others perceive these differences as well – at least with respect to visionary leadership.
Can these results partially explain the glass ceiling effect – that while women outnumber men in the workforce and at lower and middle management ranks, they are sorely absent from the upper echelons?
As Sheryl Sandberg observed during her career as the COO of Facebook and wrote in Lean In, of course there are organizational and societal barriers that women face – and yet, there may be important internal barriers that hinder us as well, which may be invisible even to us. How we perceive ourselves – our mindset – impacts our behavior – our behavior impacts how others perceive us – and how others perceive us impacts our opportunities to move ahead and to make a difference. This is true for all leaders, men and women.
These are critical issues to explore if we want expand the ability of our teams and organizations to get the best from our brightest. When women’s voices are heard at the top levels, companies see bottom-line benefits spanning from profitability to retention.
You are invited to join me and the team at Denison Consulting to explore these issues and opportunities in our upcoming webinar series, “Leadership and the Sexes.” In the first session, we will take a deeper dive into our research findings, paradoxes, and implications for leaders of both genders. In the second session, a five-member panel of executive women who have successfully broken through the glass ceiling will share their journeys and lessons learned with us, including Laura Sanders, VP and GM at IBM and Tiffany Morris, VP of HR at Sears Holdings.
During the webinars, we’ll explore questions such as:
What are the biggest blind spots women have that unintentionally hold them back?
How can women position themselves as credible candidates to go from the best kept secret to the next big success?
Do companies really get that gender equality is a bottom line strategic imperative – and what are they doing about it?
Click on the links below to learn more and to reserve your seat for this exciting series that is relevant to all of us as leaders:
The definition of Change Intelligence is the “awareness of our own Change Leader Style, and the ability to adapt our style to be optimally effective across situations.” For leaders of both genders, CQ starts with awareness – of our strengths and blind spots – so we can continue on our conscious, intentional journeys to become more confident and credible agents of change.