It’s dangerous to generalize, but there are differences between men and women in leadership style – not in skills but in style. We can’t ignore a million years of history – at the office or in the living room. The hilarious Broadway show Defending the Caveman summed up the difference pretty well: Men hunt, women gather. That’s why today, if a woman wants to watch her favorite television shows, it’s often easier for her to buy a new TV than to battle a man for the remote control.
Go for the Kill
I believe that “gathering” is at the crux of how women view and use power differently from men. I have over 20 years of experience in corporate America and men have tended to demonstrate a “go for the kill” mentality. They try to get as much as possible through pressure, intimidation, and the sheer desire to defeat at any cost whoever is sitting across the table from them. In contrast, women have tended to prefer searching for common interests, solving problems, and collaborating to find win-win outcomes.
According to Michael Sokolove’s profile of Mike Krzyzewski, head coach of the highly successful Duke University men’s basketball team, Krzyzewski coaches the way a woman would, with a mentoring, interpersonally sensitive, and highly effective coaching style.
More scientifically, however, women are transformational leaders. These leaders establish themselves as role models by gaining followers’ trust and confidence. The transformational leader states future goals, develops plans to achieve those goals, and innovates the team and/or organization. Contrary, men are more transactional leaders, where they establish give-and-take relationships that appeal to subordinates’ self-interest. Transactional leaders manage in the conventional manner of clarifying subordinates’ responsibilities, rewarding them for meeting objectives, and correcting them for failing to meet objectives*. Although transformational and transactional leadership styles are different, most leaders whether male or female, adopt at least some behaviors of both types.
How do we move forward? Men and women in leadership must realize and accept the value that both leadership styles bring to their teams and organizations. This realization can only will bring a culture of success.
*Source: Harvard Business Review
© 2010 Karlyn D. Henderson, M.A. All rights reserved.
Karlyn D. Henderson, M.A., Leadership Development Strategist, consults and coaches women in leadership to quantum leap into successful significance, master a quality holistic life, and become empowered by conquering challenges and breaking through barriers. Karlyn is the author of the forth coming book: SHE 2.0 (she20.net). Check out her blog: Authentic Leader with Karlyn and follower her tweets at twitter@HendersonKarlyn.