Gender Differences In Leadership Styles

Suraj Bindra

There is no quantifiable difference between the leading styles of males and females but situational differences have been seen. In previous studies, the difference in the leadership style between genders was hard to study because both genders weren’t necessarily in the same leadership positions. But there are certain theories and researches which prove that leadership style differs between men and women. 

WHY DO MALE AND FEMALE LEADERSHIP STYLES DIFFER?

Those researchers that support gender differences in leadership styles argue that this is because of the psychological differences in the way both genders communicate with others and differences in the influence tactics. These differences are based on the sex-oriented prior experiences such as the difference in parenting style and expectations which define the personality and behavior of an individual as well as their leadership style.

Men's leadership style has been defined by the stereotypical thought about their masculine characteristics of solving problems, delegating, and influencing upward, as opposed to women whose stereotypical feminine characteristics are rewarding, supporting, networking, mentoring, inspiring, and consulting. These duties are supposed to be accomplished by both genders accordingly. Therefore, they are raised with these expectations which have an impact on their leading style.

COMMUNICATION AND INFLUENCING STYLES

Communication style and influence tactics of both genders are considered when looking at their leadership abilities.

Men and women differ in the way they attempt to influence others. Influence is the tactic that leaders use to motivate and influence their team, therefore it is the most common way to measure a leader’s effectiveness. The majority of studies done on influence tactics and gender suggest that men and women use different influence tactics.

Influence tactics are divided into two categories. One is the softer way of influencing others and the second is the hard way to influence. The hard influence tactics are by being forcing others and hard to resist while soft influence tactics are based on interpersonal relationships.

Lamudi found very interesting results in his study which explains that men use softer tactics with the male partners which inferred that males count on interpersonal relationships with same-gender whereas they use hard tactics based on intimidation to influence members of the opposite sex.

He also found that female uses only soft tactics to both their male and female partners because they value interpersonal relationship at workplace. Male managers are seemed to use authoritative and assertive ways to influence others while female mostly uses consulting and inspiring tactics. Some theorist believes that influence tactics vary from situation to situation.

Leaders are known to use hard influence tactics to the opposite sex while softer to same-sex.

DIFFERENCE IN LEADERSHIP STYLE

Men are task-oriented leaders while women are relationship-oriented leaders. Men try to control situations and focus on accomplishing the task, setting standards, and supervising the team. They are likely to take charge and are controlling in their style. They like to work in competitive environments.

On the other hand, women are concerned with the bonds with their team. They try to involve them in decision-making and maintaining strong interpersonal relationships. Their styles of leadership mirror how they communicate and influence others. Men have more assertive style leadership because they converse to show power and dominance to others while women have caretaker style leadership as the purpose of their conversation is to build interpersonal relationships with their members. Therefore women are often social leaders while men are task-leaders. 

GENDER BARRIERS IN LEADERSHIP

Both men and women have different leading styles but one is not better than the other. They are just different. Both have their set of weaknesses and contextual barriers. These gaps are due to deep-seated beliefs and perceptions held for both men and women and have existed for generations. Certain beliefs and stereotypes have been held for women and men and role incongruity occurs when they do what is not expected of them.

Women are less effective in the roles which are supposed by men and vice versa. For example, the nurse role is not expected by men and when they do it, they are not taken positively. And likewise, when women want to be in the military, they are not supported by platoons. It becomes difficult for them to succeed if their behavior is not perceived to be congruent with their gender roles. Stereotypical masculine and feminine characteristics are also a barrier to becoming an effective leader.

Men are always imagined as strong, dominant, powerful, and aggressive and women are caring, supportive, nurturing, and loving. This association of characteristics with males and females causes conflict when they attain leadership positions opposite to expectations.  

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Women's mindsets hold them back. Because of their lack of confidence, risk aversion, and fear of failure, they don’t pursue higher positions. And if they want to do such a thing, they are confronted with barriers such as work-life balance, family, and safety. Men only have to work and earn while women have also the responsibility of the household. 

SOLUTIONS

One of the most common barriers is the mindset of people. The more they volunteer for unexpected activities, communicate their desires, and travel, the more it will help to put to rest any assumption made about them. They should be aware of their barriers and work together to solve them. Women need to speak up, trust their voices, and be confident. The HR department should help to tackle gender role issues at the workplace.

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