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Gender and leadership style analysis

1. Introduction

Leader is the central part of a company. No matter what kind of organization it is, the activity of leading is very important. Leader style is also called manager style, which is concerned with maintaining motivation, balancing interests and implementing tactical plans. “An effective leader is someone who motivates a person or a group to accomplish more than they would have otherwise accomplished without that leader’s involvement” (Gedney R., 1999). As a good leader, he or she should be visionary, innovative, and has strategic and logical thinking. Good leadership style can help a company to build and sustain a high performance structure.

When a baby is born, the first question people always ask is “is it a boy or a girl?” The baby’s gender determines what kind of characteristics he or she would have to some extent. If the baby is a boy, he is more likely to be competitive, strong and tough in the future. If the baby is a girl, she seems to be more careful, emotional, and patient when she grows up. So according to different characteristics male and female maintain, their leadership styles have many differences.

2. Different Genders’ Leadership Styles

“Research presented by Dr. Pat Heim in her video, ‘The Invisible Rules: Men, Women and Teams,’ indicates that each gender is a ‘culture’ in itself, raised with invisible rules of conduct instinctively known to all adult members of that gender” (Norton D., 1998). Male leader leans towards the traditional “command-and-control” style. They are more likely to employ a transactional leadership.

The transactional leadership style “developed by Bass is based on the hypothesis that followers are motivated through a system of rewards and punishment” (“Transactional leadership”, 2007). Leaders using this style view job performance as a series of transactions and they offer rewards for services rendered or punishment for inadequate performance. This means if the followers do something good for the organization, they will be rewarded. On the contrary, if they do something wrong, they will be punished. Followers are putting the wishes of leaders in effect. In fact, this kind of style may begin to form the very early leader-follower relationship. Male leaders give the ideas to their followers that they can get better raises by following orders.

As for female leaders, they also use the transactional leadership style. But the study found women were more likely to use the supporting component the leadership style have. On the other hand, male leaders not always give rewards when their employees perform well. But if the employees do something wrong, he will punish them without doubts.

Female leaders are tended to use this kind of “interactive” leadership style. They not only encourage others' participation but also attempted to energize followers by enhancing their sense of self-worth. They inspire and motivate employees while allowing them some initiative and giving them the power to make decisions on their own. Many women leaders believe that people perform best when they feel good about themselves and their work. The leaders are opening access to information to increase opportunities for continuous improvement.

But similarities also exist among men and women managers. In order to lead employees, no matter what gender you are, you should follow many similar principles that useful in management. “An extensive review of research suggests that similarities in leadership styles tend to outweigh the differences. Because of career self-selection and organization selection, people who choose careers in law enforcement or real estate have a lot in common. So do individuals who choose managerial or supervisory roles” (David C., 2006).

In retrospect, men are more likely to use the transactional leadership style for rewarding and punishing employees. “Men are strong and decisive. Women build bridges of empathy. Men get things done. Women care more about the process”(“Different leadership styles”, 2007). As women always use the transformational leadership style, they are better at negotiating than men. There are many communication strengths for female leaders: they enhance team work, win the trust of the people they work with, and encourage innovation. Male leaders also have many advantages: they are decisive when they face difficult situations, have clear mind to set different responsibilities, and remove unwanted elements without doubts.

3. Male Leaders vs. Female Leaders, Which Make Better Leaders

During a long period of time, many people think men have the ability to manage people well and they are suitable to management. However, as more and more women are moving into management in recent years, some questions have arisen: Do women bring a special brand new style of leading into company? The traditional “command-and-control” style, compared with women's ways of leading, which one is more effective? Which leadership style is better? Which leadership style is better?

In 2005, a year-long study identified a number of characteristics that distinguish women leaders from men when it comes to qualities of leadership. The study findings are summarized into four specific statements about women's leadership qualities: “Women leaders are more persuasive than their male counterparts. When feeling the sting of rejection, women leaders learn from adversity and carry on with an "I'll show you" attitude.” (“Women Leaders study”, 2005).

Esther Wachs, the author of the book Why the Best Man for the Job is a Woman: The Unique Female Qualities of Leadership, makes research on the careers of fourteen top female executives - among them the President and CEO of eBay to find out what makes them so successful. She found women has “a willingness to reinvent the rules; an ability to sell their visions; the determination to turn challenges into opportunities; and a focus on 'high touch' in a high tech business world” (Lowen L.).

Women in both staff and line positions were more likely to be leader-style executives than their male colleagues. During 1990s, there were only small part of women filled in managerial positions and most of them stayed in house looking after babies and doing housework. But just after several years, more and more women become white-collars and get high-leveled jobs. Organizations realize women have better performance than expected. In 2005, the number of women “ascent into top management positions in large companies has increased nearly 60 percent over the last decade. In both the UK and Ireland, women represent more than 45 percent of the workforce” (Gurdal I., 2005).

From the data we can see, the speed which women moved into top positions is very fast. Nowadays, it is common to see female leaders in organization, although they are still the minority. Since technology develops rapidly, what the company concerned most in the future is for people. Interactive management, creative problem handling method, and effective communication skills are more valuable for an organization than other aspects. All these characteristics as important for future development and success are the qualities female leaders have. So to some extents, it seems that female leadership style is more and more suitable for companies.

Women have the ability to create brand new corporation culture, which is different from male leaders produced. The structures that women establish seem to be flexible and these structures can help to create more interactive environment for a company. “Since women also tend to discuss problems more openly and utilize 'group-think' to seek solutions, such solutions are often more acceptable to teams” (Gutiérrez M., 2008).

According to what mentioned above, female leaders have many advantages outweigh than male leaders. But this does not mean male leaders are not good. There is still much superiority which male leaders have. Many studies show there are not lots of differences between the qualities of men and women leadership styles. Each gender’s leadership styles have their good points.

Since male leaders are more “masculine”, they are good at solving problems, delegating, and influencing superiors. Female leaders are more “feminine”, they are more likely to be supporting and rewarding others, building team and consulting. Interestingly, some male leaders are better at networking, which generally is seen as a "feminine" behavior. Some female leaders are better than males at solving problems, an ability regarded as male leadership style.

4. The Trend of Leadership Style

4.1 Feminine leadership style is growing

The general perception of business management before was a structure dominated by males whose leadership style was hierarchical, tough, action-oriented, and even autocratic. In most people’s mind, the ideal leader should be regarded as an independent, tough, individualistic hero. But today a new generation of women is bringing to business a different style often described as more consensus-building, more likely to encourage participation by others, more open and inclusive, and even more caring than that of many males.

Now a new wave revolution created by women is coming. Many females begin explore their own way to top management positions. The way is not sitting down under old rules and habits that have proved effective and suitable for males, it derives from women’s own experience and their unique understanding of the world.T he World YWCA Secretary General Kanyoro says attitudes toward leadership changing mentioned this: “These newly admired leadership qualities of shared leadership; nurturance and doing good for others are today not only sought after but also indeed needed to make a difference in the world....A feminine way of leading includes helping the world to understand and be principled about values that really matter” (Kanyoro M., 2006).

In modern society, domination is no longer a popular leadership style. Today’s work force is better-educated. Nowadays, more and more young professional workers are joining into the organizations. They demand to participate and contribute. In some cases, they have knowledge or talents their bosses don't have. Normally, these kinds of workers are likely to respond more to interactive leaders. They hope their leaders can be flexible, interactive, trust and encouraging rather than rigid, right-wing, serious, and restraining.

Today’s company requires leaders who not only are risk takers, but also are capable of hearing the ideas of others and really give them the power to use some of the ideas in changing business making them successful. Listening, encouraging and sharing information with people are the keys to success for best leaders. Just like the President of the nearly $500-million-a-year magazine group of Meredith Corp. said: “Companies that try to manage in the old top-down, hierarchical, drill-sergeant way is just doomed” (Nelton S., 1991).

Many experts agree that women are more likely to have the ability to deal with the complicated problems existed in the company. They are more active in building networks, listening, resolving conflict, and getting people to work together. In addition, women can help companies be more competitive because they see business opportunities as a result of their own experience. Many female leaders have the confidence that they can help company grow very well in an international market. Although men still run the world, more and more people realize that it might be in better shape if women were more often in charge.

Female leadership characters “can help companies solve three major problems--the need for better customer service, the demand for higher quality, and the need for leadership itself” (Nelton S., 1991). Gradually, many male leaders start to use the so-called feminine tools of leadership without embarrassment. Being more male than male is no longer effective for women leaders on controlling a company. Women leaders have more opportunities to use the styles that are more natural to them as individuals, whether "soft" or "tough."

As never before, the world is seeking capable women as being the female leader. It’s happening most quickly on the entrepreneurial side, as well as on the corporate side. A large growing pool of women will have the chance to show their executive talent. According to the research on Google, in United States, more than 4 million of women have already started at the top by launching their own companies. In order to nurture the development of women leaders, many companies encourage mentoring for women. They create situations that facilitate informal, on-the-job advice for women. Some companies also add women to board of directors.

4.2 Different leaderships blend together

Although there are many advantages by using feminine leadership style, smart companies are making room for a diversity of styles, encouraging the development of women leaders along with the men. Male leaders are better at giving orders, while female leaders like to build the bridge between employees and her. They enhance team work more than male leaders and they more focus on the detailed things during the process. On the contrary, male leaders always lead in a macro point of view. Men and women can learn strengths from each other. Many women are combining the best of the traditional styles, such as focus on performance, into their leadership style, while men are adopting the so-called "soft" management approaches that women use effectively. For the fortunate businesses, these different styles should be complementary rather than confrontational.

If two men or two women work together, it may not be more effective than men and women work together. At the top of the company, if different genders work together, they can produce harmony and comfortable environment and develop the company’s potential to higher point. For an organization, in order to fully realize its potential, it is vital to meld different leadership styles together.

No matter what kind of way the leader uses, the critical thing for the leader is to know the strong and weakness the style they use most frequently. To be effective in the workplace, the leader must also realize that switching between different styles can make his or her company have better performance.

Dilemma Faced by Female Leaders in Today’s Society:

Stereotyping Leadership

When we talk about the two types of leadership –one is predominantly masculine and the other is predominantly feminine, we would think about two different kinds of figures: men in the military and on the playing field to train soldiers, and women in the home to manage the house and nurture husbands and children. Since many women have been married and have children, most of them spend higher average hours of housework than men per week. The competitive pressure is growing higher and higher in today’s society, women have to strive to balance their professional careers and family roles. Some people think female are not suitable for being leaders because women always consider their family a lot and can not spend all efforts on work. Women’s inability of being leaders is not because they lack adequate leadership characteristics; it is because they do not have time and energy. “Widely shared gender stereotypes are in effect the “genetic code” of the gender system, since they constitute the cultural rules or schemas by which people perceive and enact gender difference and inequality” (Carli L., 2001).

Male and female management styles are distinct. In many cases, managerial stereotypes fit with gender stereotypes. People stereotype women as being better at encouraging, supporting and taking care; while men are stereotyped as being more direct, kinglike and taking charge. Many people think if the leader is a female, she is more likely to discuss with their employees when making a decision. To the contrary, if the leader is a male, he would decide by himself and influence superiors to follow him. People always consider man can better achieve a solution than women. Today, the number of men in top management positions is still much higher than women. Only a quite small part of women can enter top management field, let alone being CEOs.

No matter what leadership style female executives choose, they are more likely to be perceived negatively than men. Female business leaders act consistent with gender stereotypes are considered too soft. But if they go against gender stereotypes, they are considered too tough. To explain these, when a female leader exhibit traditionally valued leadership behaviors such as assertiveness, she tends to be seen as competent but not personable or likable. If she adopts a more stereotypically feminine style, people like it but not see it as having valued leadership skills. So there is a double-bind dilemma for women in leadership: “Damned If You Do, Doomed If You Don't” (“Study”, 2007).

So today’s female leaders are really at a deadlock. Even though they tried very hard to become leaders, they still have limited positional power. Many people do not agree women become leaders because they regard all of women as a whole, and all of them have the same characteristics – in other words, women’s character flaw. In those people’s mind, since most women are sentimental, they should be tender and shilly-shally; since they are approachable, they do not have the determination to make punishment or criticize; since they are likely to support and encourage others, they do not have the power to influence superiors, etc.

Stereotyping is strong and horrible, it gives women more and more pressure when they pursuit higher positions. Although many women have diversity trainings before they enter into executive positions, they still feel powerless to eliminate the stereotypes. The effect of gender stereotyping can be devastating, it block the way they pursuit their career, whittle down their confidence, bury their talents and potential and increase the huge gap in business leadership. One day women will be fully accepted in senior positions, but before this day comes true, women still have much further to go.

Many companies have already realized the bad environment and unequal opportunities for women. In order to help women achieve their advancement and argue for their rights, some organizations have already taken active measure to avoid and resist gender stereotyping. Women leaders’ performance should be shown and supported, especially when they are in the fields dominated by male. Company should also create a gender-sensitive workplace, to give women the same opportunities to take part in the work discussion. Another way is to give managers, executives, and even employees the education about stereotyping. This can give them the idea that it is important to improve gender quality and let women have more confidence to strive for their rights. Furthermore, objective standards must be used when evaluating people’s achievements. It is sure that with equitable and supportive business environment, the organization will have better-educated workforce, enjoy better business performance and become more compatible in the market.

6. Suggestions for Good Leadership Style

Regardless of the size of the company, both men and women business leaders have a lot they can teach one another about leadership, as well as the members of their own sex. As they learn from one another, they can bring strengthened leadership abilities to their companies. Here are some suggestions for good leadership styles.

6.1 Listen Carefully

For this point, women leaders tend to be better listeners than men. Listening is the key because leaders can learn from the people who work for them by listening. If followers know their leader is open, the leader even hears the downside directly. Listening to others is a kind of way to gather information. It enables leaders to keep making changes to improve the organization.

However, listening doesn't always mean agreement. Listening to a person doesn’t mean you should decide it in his or her way. Leaders should be good at filtering useful information. Some leaders meet with a different group of 15 or more non-managerial employees for round-table discussions every month. By talking with those employees, leaders can get to know people at levels they might never see. The purpose of the round-table discussion is communication, but a wise leader makes a point of listening more than talking.

6.2 Being Decisive

“Decisiveness is defined as being ‘characterized by firmness and decision’” (“Being decisive”, 2007). Being decisive doesn’t mean having a closed mind or being bullheaded. A good leader should know when to stop building consensus and gathering information to make a decision. Decisiveness is an area that women could probably learn something from men.

6.3 Be Willing to Express Your Emotions

In fact, there is always a wrong perception about management. People always think soft management means the leader is sensitive, caring and supportive, and hard management means the leader is tough and draw the lines. But actually, a lot of the tough guy is really cowardly and ineffective management. Managers who take the “hard” approach sometimes are hiding behind a shell, they are afraid to confront their own emotions and feelings. They scare to show it in public.

Don’t be afraid to show your feelings to your employees which are important for both male and female leaders. Because it is a way to show your faith and honest, and it is also an opportunity to build the bridge of trust among people. Many leaders find when they stop hiding their emotions, their reputation among employees is higher. Instead of considering being soft, they receive more respects from their employees. Cry doesn’t mean you are wimp. Leaders who cry for their employees’ outstanding performance or regret for their own leading mistakes convey that they take employees’ performance and achievements seriously.

6.4 Doesn’t Let Your Ego Get in the Way

No matter you are a man or a woman, you have to learn that there is no place for ego in leadership. Only one person can not make a company successful. Running an organization it's a team effort and a team attitude. If something is good, both leader and followers will all take credit. But if it is bad, they all take the blame. Leaders should not be too proud of them and focus on making profit for their own, since it will be found sooner or later and followers will not trust the leaders any more. Don’t be egotistical does not mean you can not get to the top if you want to. But what the leader should make it clear is that the more people you try to take along with you, the faster you'll get there and the longer you'll stay there.

6.5 Be Yourself

Don't try to force yourself into a certain style that's not natural to you, even if you think it's expected of you. Leaders should aware that different people have different expectations, you can not satisfy everyone. Do not lose yourself. Female leaders are strong professionals, but they can still wear dresses instead of masculine-looking suits. They can also keep a jar of candy in the office, which is regarded as a “typically female” touch. Believe it or not, such little things can produce an environment of communication and friendliness.

You can learn to draw on other leaders' styles, however, to enrich your choice of tools. Leader should build on his or her strengths in terms of the personality, and it basically comes down to what works best for him or her.

7. Does only sex determine the leadership style?

Most of the male leaders can set legible responsibilities, but that does not mean women leaders can not. So all of these characteristics described for male and female actually do not have clear boundaries and are not the unique ones just aim at one gender. The leadership style is not just influenced by gender, the style also develop out of personalities and life experiences. Each leader has a predominant style, but the other aspects of leadership must also be present as tools to use. If men do not feel embarrassed to show some kinds of feminine ways of leading, they can also use them directly and effectively. In some cases, female leaders are also comfortable to show use some male leadership styles when necessary. In very difficult and dangerous situation, there may be just only one right decision. The leader should use it, no matter what gender the leader is.

For many successful male and female leaders, their partners (have different gender) are linked by neither marriage nor romance. Men and women in senior management all work for long hours and are motivated by the achievement they made.

Leadership style is also determined by the types of operations executives run. If the leader oversees design and production, he seems to be more low-key than the other one who is responsible for sales, marketing, and finance. The second leader needs to be more intense and aggressive so as to increase the performance of apartments which he or she charges. If leaders’ responsibilities require more structure, they should be more strict and rigid. On the contrary, if they need to deal with creative people, they should be more fluid, spontaneous, and flexible. From a get-somebody's-attention standpoint, it is beneficial for the leaders to be direct, no nonsense, and get on the table what they want.

8. Conclusion

In retrospect, males tended to be more task-oriented; females tended to be more relationship-oriented. Women tend to employ a more democratic, participative style while men tend to take a more autocratic, directive approach. Self-selection and adaptation are factors common to female leadership, while delegation and controlling are factors common to male leadership. Female leaders are more likely to be supporting and rewarding others, building team and consulting. Male leaders are better at solving problems, delegating, and influencing superiors.

Human flexibility combined with cultural experiences allows men and women the ability to do more or less what they choose versus being locked into stereotypical behaviors. For example, men are capable, although maybe not comfortable, working within organizations currently identified with women’s styles. Also, women can and do adapt to military leadership styles when required. Although there are lots of differences between male and female leaders, they can still successfully work together, to communicate effectively, and contribute equally to the work place.

Nowadays, more and more leaders become introspective but decisive, caring yet competent. Companies seem to understand giving the chances to a variety of leaders to grow and shine is good for business. All in all, whether a style is "masculine" or "feminine", the best leadership style depends on the organization. A nontraditional leadership style can be effective in organizations that accept it. The most competitive organizations will take leaders wherever they find them, no matter what sex they are. That's not only the essence of capitalism, but also the law of survival of the fittest.

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