Comparing Men and Women in a Leadership Role

Over the years, when studying women in a leadership role, research has shown that even though men and women share similar leadership responsibilities, they differ when it comes to leadership style.

Transactional vs Transformational Leadership

To better understand gender leadership differences, we can begin by examining men and women in a leadership role.

A number of workplace studies have shown that women in a leadership role tend to have more of a transformational effect on their coworkers and peers; whereas their male counterparts tend to have more of a transactional leadership style.

What’s the difference?

Transactional leader are goal focused leaders, who tend to spend time supervising, organizing and evaluating performance. Whereas transformational leadership focuses on enhancing the motivation and engagement of subordinates by directing their behavior toward a shared vision.

A common view is that masculine qualities like being assertive, authoritative, unemotional are synonymous with the transactional style of male leaders. For example, it’s not uncommon for male leaders to concern themselves with the status quo, and use a reward and punishment system to instill compliance.

Men are neurologically built to focus more on the rewards gained by what gets accomplished. This is why most male leaders exhibit a transactional or performance-driven kind of leadership style.

Are Men Better Than Women in a Leadership Role?

A study that compared male and female managers based on transformational and transactional qualities, found that women in a leadership role were more transformational. Women leaders were shown to create rewards that supported transactional behavior, whereas their male counterparts were shown to manage by exception and would only bringing issues to a person’s attention if there were substantial differences in the expected achievement and the goals established.

Women, in addition to carrying out their main responsibilities, were shown to go out of their way to offer guidance, ask for progress updates from team members, and give encouragement and support to others when needed.

This type of behavior indicates that women in a leadership role focuses on the “whole” instead of just accomplishing their set objectives. Whereas men in a leadership role focuses on being dominant figures who value strict adherence of rules.

According to researchers, one of the main elements that can help explain the differences displayed by men and women in a leadership role is physiology. This is because certain neuroscientists discovered that women have a higher concentration of oxytocin when compared to men.

This particular chemical, which can also be referred to as the “cuddle hormone” due to the fact that it makes people feel more connected, is what causes women to instinctively value and care more about their subordinates.

Women leaders also believe that their positions allows them to grow and develop the talents and skills of those who work under them. As a result, they are usually able to create a great vibe or aura in whatever setting they are in.

Some studies indicated that men could be concerned about being vulnerable, which is a feeling that can trigger the release of a stress hormone called cortisol. Being sensitive and emotional are not positive traits for a man in a leadership role to have, which is quite the opposite for women leaders.

Of course, both men and women leaders have their fair share of up and downs. This is why each their leadership styles comes with its own set of benefits and limitations.

The important part for HR personnel is to recognize the differences, and to encourage their organizations to create a balance of both men and women leaders.

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