New study highlights the differences between male and female leaders

Men and women have different leadership strengths, and organisations need a balance of both if they are to be truly effective, claims a new study from Talent Innovations, the 360° feedback specialist.

Jun 13, 2012

Men and women have different leadership strengths, and organisations need a balance of both if they are to be truly effective, claims a new study from Talent Innovations, the 360° feedback specialist.

The company analysed the 360° feedback results of nearly 14,000 UK leaders and managers to identify the differences in how men and women were rated against a set of 18 leadership competencies. The results show that men are more strategic but women may make better project managers.

Women score higher than men in the competencies of planning and managing activities, respect & empathy for others and personal responsibility. Men score higher in strategic vision, commercial focus and personal impact.

“Men and women tend to excel in different aspects of leadership,” said Elva Ainsworth, Managing Director of Talent Innovations. “The ‘male leadership style’ is strategic and visionary, while the ‘female leadership style’ is more social. On one hand, this study highlights the general areas in which men and women need leadership development. However, on the other, it suggests that the natural styles of men and women are complementary. By creating a balance of both types of leadership, through Board-level diversity, organisations can bring about peak performance.”

The study shows that women are good at prioritising and multitasking. They tend to meet deadlines and deliver on promises. They also empathise well with others, they’re socially-sensitive and they’re good listeners.

“Women tend to be stronger in the interpersonal aspects of leadership and in the competencies of planning and organising,” said Elva Ainsworth. “This implies that women may make better project managers.”

Men are good at making a strong first impression, expressing views with confidence, being visible across the organisation and making their presence felt. They tend to be less socially-sensitive and are more focused on the rational, practical and commercial aspects of achieving results.

“Men tend to be stronger in the behaviours that help an individual to progress their career,” said Elva Ainsworth. “They’re also seen as stronger in strategic thinking. These factors may be part of the reason why women are under-represented in senior management positions.”

The study also reveals how the sexes differ in their assessments of each other. Women are inclined to be more generous in the way they judge their colleagues than men. Women rate other women higher in the competencies of leading teams, managing performance, the ability to communicate clearly, commitment to development and being customer-centric. Men rate other men higher in the ability to grasp complexities and innovation.

“Interestingly, women give themselves low scores for almost the same competencies in which men rate them poorly,” said Elva Ainsworth. “It’s as if women’s self-perception is an amplified reflection of men’s views. Women rate higher than men when it comes to admitting mistakes, saying ‘sorry’ and owning the consequences of their decisions. It could be that men don’t like to admit their mistakes to women, whereas women are less concerned about admitting their mistakes to others.”

A free report on the study – What can 360° feedback data tell us about the differences between male and female leaders? by Mark Ainsworth and Elva Ainsworth – is available at www.talentinnovations.com

For further information, please call Talent Innovations on 0845 362 3269.

Background notes: Founded in 2001, Talent Innovations provides 360° feedback for development and a set of online developmental tools to help organisations achieve transformational change by improving the performance of their people.


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