Leadership plays a key role in the growth and success of organizations, so the study of leaders, their behaviours, and styles of leadership, has a central role in the literature on organizations. In this context, the present article aims to show the differences and similarities between the leadership styles tended to be adopted by men and by women.
This has been a highly debated and studied issue, given that women remain underrepresented in leadership roles. And why??
The main reason presented by several authors is related to the belief that women are less competent to occupy leadership positions, insofar as they are the characteristics masculine, namely the manifestation of behaviours of power and control, which are often considered traits of a good leader.
Authors Smith, Rosenstein, & Nikolov (2018), defend that people have similar beliefs about what it means to “be a leader” and “be a man”, but different beliefs about “being a leader” and “being a woman”, because women are traditionally seen as caring, people-oriented, warm and pleasant, while leaders are traditionally seen as assertive, resistant, self-reliant and results-oriented. This creates an incompatibility situation, which results in a more negative evaluation of women as leaders.
In our days, women have been gaining more and more space in organizations where they did not have the opportunity before, playing a relevant and respected role in relation to men's work in the growth of the economically active population. But they still encounter many challenges and difficulties that persist to this day in relation to women knowing how to deal with home, and family but still focus on their growth at work whiles still celebrating all achievements achieved.
Recent research suggests that women may use a different conceptual model than has traditionally been employed in large organizations in mediating between these two, sometimes conflicting, goals. In particular, women may adopt a more relational approach in interactions with employees and clients. Females in top-ranking positions provide an opportunity to examine women's management styles. In their own companies, women are unencumbered by the cultural influences and behavioural expectations regarding appropriate management and interpersonal styles that exist in organizations being managed by men.
The findings provide insight into the choices the subjects make about their management of relationships with employees and clients. This insight illuminates the ethical perspective driving female CEOs decisions concerning their businesses. In the next section, a background about the gendered nature of organizations will be presented. Then, the literature on women’s leadership style and an overview on management skills and strategies being used by a woman leading a global organization in the LNG industry.
Historically, there has been a separation of work and family spheres where men predominate in business and government, the public sphere, while women predominate at home, the private sphere. Over time, the private and public domains have become gendered spheres, with masculine values and skills governing in the public and feminine skills and values in the private sphere. Thus, men have defined the nature of organizations and work in terms of their experience (Acker, 1992).
Because males developed and built organizations, their cultures reflect male values and development. Recent economic changes include a more diverse and highly educated U.S. workforce, an accelerating rate of change, and growing reliance on work teams to address increasingly complex business issues. In this context, the traditional command and control management style are no longer effective in many organizational settings. More recently, skills heretofore utilized predominantly in the private domain (and used primarily by women) have been shown to be effective in the workplace (Fletcher, 1998).
Previous research on women’s leadership style has shown that while men and women lead in similar ways, there are also demonstrated differences in style by gender. Women have been shown to be transformational as opposed to transactional (Bass, 1991), and more participative and democratic in their leadership style than are many men. Women also tend to have more highly developed interpersonal skills. For example, Rosener (1995) describes women’s leadership style as interactive, emphasizing consensus building, being comfortable with ambiguity, and sharing power and information. She has found that women leaders tend to encourage multidirectional feedback, develop reward systems that value group as well as individual contributions and foster empowerment of employees at all levels.
Bancroft (1995) reported that women adopt a holistic, process-oriented approach that is inclusive and collaborative. Calas and Smircich (1992) posit that while women have been compared to men, women’s experience and their alternative ways of thinking, hence women’s voice, has been largely ignored in organizational research. Organizations created and built by women may reflect their values and socialization.
This style of leadership is relatively new to the modern world despite the increasing numbers of female managers in industrialized nations and emphasizes motivation and engagement along with the creation of a shared vision. There is also an emphasis on individualized consideration and providing a role model for high ethical behaviour that encourages respect and trust throughout the entire organization. In the full range of this discussed leadership model, transformational leaders inspire employees to go beyond the call of duty, foster creative solutions to problems, serve as mentors, create a vision, and articulate plans for achieving this vision.
Another aspect that defers women management and leadership style to that of men is employing and giving more professional opportunities to women. Studies have shown that having more women in the workplace is also positively related to employee engagement and retention.
Kathy Eberwein CEO of The Global Consultants Group is an example of a female leader who created and built an organization that reflects her values and socialization methods. Her leadership style adopts a holistic, process-oriented approach that is inclusive and collaborative, encouraging multidirectional feedback, and fosters empowerment of employees at all levels.
Coming from an engineering background in which she served for many years as an employee, she noticed that with time passing, the businesses she worked for were turned over to new groups of executives, and the common theme she experienced was that the driver became one that was solely on financial objectives. While financial objectives are always important in driving businesses specially in ones lead by men, she observed that some of the very things that contributed to the growth and success of these companies became less important, the connection with people and the goal to put people first.
This was what got Kathy to begin thinking that there must be a way to grow a company while preserving the very fundamentals that built these businesses in the first place. As simple as it sounds, her vision became clear that she wanted to build a global business and drive it forward at high levels while maintaining what she always believed in “Our Passion ou People”
Being a leader of a Global company in a predominately masculine industry, isn’t an easy role to carry as woman in a world still full of stereotypes in which women are still believed to be less capable than men but as they say, with great power comes great responsibilities and is by Kathy embracing those that the Global Edge consultants is today a proudly WBENC and WEConnect organization that supplies diversity, develops and maintains a passion for “people first” politics when it comes to contractors and clients.
Women don't care about the level of hierarchy and management, they know how to be good leaders because they have competence, emotional balance, ability to improvise and self-determination which is what has proven to be fundamental to good leadership, reason, why the world has now more female leaders than the past, has seen.
Female leadership is a very challenging topic, shown through studies how important the presence of women is within companies and in the work. This way it can be considered that women have all the weapons in their hands to become good leaders and stand out in this role, which little by little is becoming a reality.