Do women and men lead differently? The answer is an unequivocal “yes”, according to Sharon Hadary, the founding executive director of the Center for Women’s Business Research and Laura Henderson, the founder of Prospect Associates, a $20-million health communications and biomedical research firm. For more than two decades, Hadary and Henderson have conducted research into how women lead to understand and how women leadership skills position top-achieving women for success.
Consider the following from Hadary and Henderson’s research:
• Pepperdine University has tracked the performance of Fortune 500 companies for the last decade; companies with women in leadership report better financial results than those with fewer women leaders.
• Harvard Business School reported that peers, bosses and associates rate senior women executives 10% higher as leaders than male senior executives.
• Credit Suisse found that women on their boards outperform those with all-male boards.
So, what is it that makes women leaders so effective and how can women better cultivate their leadership skills? Based on thirty years in corporate America and nearly two decades of experience recruiting highly talented women leaders, I recommend the following:
Invest time in consultation and collaboration. Women are naturally better at collaboration and consultation, according to Hadary and Henderson’s research. The most successful female leaders foster an inclusive company culture where all employees feel that their ideas are valued and respected.
Build exceptional teams. The best leaders are not afraid to surround themselves with people who are smarter or more talented in a specific field. Assemble the best employees possible and nurture a team-oriented approach built on trust, respect and open communication.
Be willing to delegate. Accept that it’s simply impossible to do everything. Trust your team to get the job done and hold them accountable. Never belittle team members; build morale and loyalty through constructive feedback.
Define success on your own terms. Integrate traditional milestones for achievement, like promotions and raises, with less-traditional goals, such as working for socially responsible companies, making a positive community impact, and achieving a personally satisfying work-life balance. Know your personal goals and hold yourself accountable. Don’t be afraid to use your own yardstick to measure success and keep yourself motivated to achieve more.
Every individual has his or her own unique leadership style. Whether you are a man or a woman, however, cultivating leadership skills that are considered to be traditional female strengths – such as collaboration, teamwork, and inclusivity – will boost employee engagement and productivity.
If you are a woman leader, what leadership skills serve you best in the workplace? I welcome your insights below.