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: Monday, June 7, 2010
Women leadership styles
Female leaders have many of the same qualities as their male colleagues,
especially an ability to set high goals and inspire others to fulfill them. But
women are different in some particular ways that make them valuable additions
to decision making teams.
For one thing, women are more motivated by the purpose or meaning of their work
than men, who focus more on compensation and their job titles. Women also tend
to show more emotions at work and are more risk averse, according to Joanne
Barsch, a senior partner at McKinsey & Company who leads the consulting firm's
effort to develop women leaders.
Barsch, who also is coauthor of How Remarkable Women Lead: A Breakthrough Model
for Work and Life, told a recent gathering of women sponsored by the National
Center for Research on Women to be themselves and view their distinct
leadership qualities as strengths.
Shouldn't women be allowed to exhibit their vulnerability?" she asked the
Linda Tarr-Whelan, author of Women Lead the Way who also addressed the
gathering, agreed and noted that "women have to push for their rights" and
should expect to be scrutinized no matter how they behave. Hillary Clinton,
during her presidential campaign, "was attacked for being too tough as well as
for tearing up," Tarr-Whelan said.
The problem, however, is that even though they now comprise more than half of
all middle-level managers and professionals in the U.S. , women often don't get
the same chance as men to show their leadership talents, Barsch noted.
Just 28% of some 800 companies that McKinsey surveyed for its 2009 Women Matter
study cited "achieving leadership diversity" among their top 10 priorities and
40% of the companies surveyed said "it wasn't a priority at all," Barsch said.
The study also found that women and men have very different views about what's
needed to achieve gender parity in leadership ranks. Some 70% of the female
leaders who were surveyed said they thought women needed to hold at least 30%
of senior posts in business, government and elsewhere to be taken seriously and
to influence decision making. But a majority of male leaders surveyed didn't
think having a critical mass of women in senior roles mattered. (Barsch agreed
with the women's perspective.)
Moreover, many companies "mistakenly think if they offer women flexible work
schedules (so they can more easily balance childrearing and jobs) they've done
enough," said Barsch. But companies also need to analyze and improve how they
developing, paying and retaining women.
The litmus test for companies who want more women leaders is to make sure they
have the same chance as men do to fail, Barsch said. One male executive she
knew confided that he didn't want to promote a woman to a particular job
"because if she fails, it will be a disaster for all women."
Barsch retorted, "it's about time we put enough women into positions of power
to allow some of them to fail--the way plenty of male leaders are doing. It's
unfair to expect one gender to be perfect."
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