Women and Leadership

Unlike male leaders, the reference point for a good leadership has been inadequately defined for women leaders. The traditional and concretely defined gender roles in the society have also influenced the research and findings on women leadership, a role, which is divorced from the stereotype roles identified for women. So, it becomes rather challenging for a woman to first reach a position of leadership and then struggle for acceptance and credibility as a leader.

It is ironic that in both conservative and liberal cultures, the presence of women in positions of influence, power and leadership is far less than desirable. However, with changing times and workforce trends, this is also changing and more and more women are breaking the glass ceiling to actually lead.

It would be interesting to explore certain aspects of leadership in the context of women, do the same principles of leadership apply for both genders or there is something like feminist leadership which exclusively outlines the desirable behaviors from women leaders.

Let us try to explore the context of women leadership in an organization. Traditionally women had hardly been in senior positions within organizations to exercise power and authority. This meant that when they actually got a chance to do so, they had to live up to the expectations of a male leader, which involved being authoritarian, directive and masculine at times.

However, researches conducted show that women in leadership positions believe in more participative and collaborative approach which involves, working with people rather than making people work. Women are also good transformational leaders than men and use the nurturing, caring and engaging approach towards subordinates.

However, it is never easy for a women leader to get accepted by male subordinates, in the bargain they end up compromising on their leadership behaviors to make them more acceptable and less intimidating for the male subordinates. This leaves a very narrow scope of what is acceptable and what is not from a female leader.

For example, an aggressive and direct behavior from a male leader is appreciated but a similar approach from a woman leader is termed as unnecessarily dominating. Similarly, if the woman leader displays the feminine behavior of nurturing and care, they are looked upon as lacking firmness and assertiveness.

However there are certain clear benefits of a women leader as well, what a male leader needs to learn through deliberate efforts comes naturally to woman leaders like Emotional Intelligence, coaching and mentoring instincts, collaboration and participation etc.

Since, women leaders can collaborate effectively, they face relatively lesser challenges in managing teams separated by function and location. With their high emotional intelligence, they also understand the motivational factors of subordinates better and can also manage appropriately their diverse culture and backgrounds.

The women leaders face greater and bigger challenges than male leaders as they also have to battle against perceptions. With more women taking up leadership roles, the hitherto unknown issues and challenges of a leadership position are now beginning to surface.

The increasing stress level and dual responsibility of work and home with the constant pressure of proving herself, makes life difficult for them. However with a more sensitized organization and support extended by family, women leaders are also proving themselves as able and competent visionaries for e.g. the recent appointment of Virginia M Rometty as CEO and President of IBM Corporation.

With such decisions of appointing women at critically and strategically important positions reaffirm the fact that Women Leaders are as Good as a Male Leader. The evaluation of leadership effectiveness is only fare when it is based on leadership style and results achieved rather than on gender.

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