Do the best leaders have male or female traits?

Gender differences in the workplace have been a constant source of debate for a very long time. Men have traditionally been viewed as better leaders at times due to their aggressive nature and women have been perceived at times as too emotional to be good leaders. But, is this really true? And, which  traits are most important to have in a leader? Recently the debate on gender differences in leadership took a big leap forward, thanks in part to a New York Times article and the publication of Lean In, which encourages women to be slightly more aggressive in asserting their wants and needs. The recent New York Times article titled, “Why Some Teams are Smarter than Others” presented data on what the smartest teams had that the others didn’t. The teams that were found to be smarter had more equal contribution, were better at reading each other’s emotional states and were comprised mostly of women. We have spent a great deal of time working with male and female leaders from a variety of organizations and we can certainly see a difference in approach. Not surprisingly, the approach aligns with the stereotypes that women are more collaborative and respectful and men are more aggressive and dominating. The reality of great leadership, including what we see in our transformational leadership best practices, is that great leaders know when to move into each mode and are comfortable in the appropriate mode for specific situations. The best male leaders frequently show many “female” traits such as, collaboration, openness and respect, while remaining appropriately assertive. Whereas the best female leaders sometimes “lean in” in a more assertive way, but still put an emphasis on collaboration and caring. From what we have observed, the female approach is more effective in the long run. Of course, there are some short-term circumstances in which the male approach has some benefits, such as in times of conflict or anxiety when traditionally assertive leadership can provide a sense of security for the organization (though requires a delicate touch). The key is to remember that both male and female leadership modes are important. Leaders need to know when to drive and when to collaborate and when to embrace their inner man or woman. These are traits that can be taught and all leaders should learn them if you want your organization to succeed. What type of leadership traits would you like to see more of within your organization?]]>

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