In the battle of the sexes, people often find themselves in discussion on the differences between male and female leadership. Indeed, there are different perspectives on this topic ranging from a recognition of no differences in style or ability to clear-cut differences based on gender. It is important to recognize the role that diverse work settings as well as tendencies toward positive reinforcement, democracy or competition play in affecting leadership style.
No Difference at All
In some instances, there may be no perceived differences at all in leadership styles between men and women. In other cases, people may perceive men and women to act differently based on their own socially constructed conceptions of gender. Differences may have more to do with personality aptitudes and gender stereotypes than with actual differences in leadership due to gender.
Differences Based on Work Setting
In some settings, men and women may be equally effective leaders, but there are also settings in which males or females clearly seem to outperform each other. They do so in their own gender dominated settings. Often, women are seen as leaders in industries that represent women’s interests, such as health and education. They are not as likely as men to be recognized for their leadership talents in math or science related fields. In settings that are female-dominated, women succeed and take on more of a mentoring role with employees. Males are viewed as stronger leaders in roles that require more “command and control,” such as the military or criminal justice.
Typically, female bosses reward good job performance more frequently than their male counterparts. Contrary to the male bosses who are viewed as more critical in nature, female leaders take on a nurturing role, coaching their employees and increasing their self-esteem. Women are more likely to spark creativity and promote personal and professional development among their employees.
Generally, women are perceived as more democratic leaders. Their styles involve a sharing of information and promotion of cooperative learning. Women also share the power with their employees, enabling them to see and believe that their opinions matter. They have strong interpersonal and relational skills that make them seem empathic and effective to their staffs. They are expected to smile and be considerate as well as open to negotiation.
Male leaders represent the notion of rugged individuality and conform to the ideals of masculinity in the workplace. They are autocratic, focused on directing performance and finding solutions by considering wins and losses. Their competitive nature can make them appear less hands-on and approachable, though they often epitomize a calm, cool demeanor. Males are seen as formal authorities and are often on the top of the corporate ladder in industries dominated by highly educated women.