Women lead differently from men, studies show


April 20, 1992|By Gerald Graham | Gerald Graham,Knight-Ridder News Service

Most surveys suggest that employees hold similar expectations of men and women as leaders. Most employees report that problems in a company are not related to whether the owner is a man or a woman.

But many studies point out differences in leadership styles of men and women.

A recent survey of female business owners and their employees by consultant Charlotte Taylor, in "Entrepreneurial Woman," suggests that female leaders differ from male leaders in several ways.

* Participation: Male and female employees indicate that female leaders tend to encourage more participation than male leaders. As one employee reported, "Women are more likely to ask for help."

Judy Rosener, a management professor, says that women "encourage participation by making people feel part of the organization."

* Sensitivity: The survey also suggests that women are more sensitive to subordinates.

* Hands on: Women leaders, according to their subordinates, also pay more attention to detail and have more of a "hands-on" approach. "My previous male manager," explained a male subordinate, "was not at all concerned about the details of my area. He only wanted to know what the outcomes were."

* Emotional: There is less agreement on how female leaders handle their emotions during a crisis. Some employees report that, "When the chips are down, my boss goes to pieces." Others report that the more expressive nature of their female boss has a "calming effect."

The survey supported the belief that women express their emotions more openly, but there was disagreement on whether this had a positive or negative effect on subordinates.

Management quiz

Which of the following are more likely to be associated with leaders who are men (M), or who are women (W). If no difference, use (D).

1. Sharing of information.

2. Sharing of power.

3. Participative decision-making.

4. Higher expectations held by employees.

5. Expression of emotion.

6. Ego.

7. Likeliness to request help.

8. Attention to detail.

9. Hands-on style.

10. Autocratic leadership.

According to Charlotte Taylor's survey, items most likely to be associated with female leaders are: 1, 2, 3, 5, 7, 8, 9. Items 6 and 10 were more likely to be associated with male leaders. There was no difference on item 4. Seven or more correct answers equals an above average score.

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