Studies Show How Male and Female Leaders Differ

Men and women perform differently in leadership positions, and the differences may play a significant role in their career progression, according to two new Management Research Group studies.

Gender-related leadership discussions have caught fire of late, so the timing couldn’t have been better for Management Research Group (MRG) to release two studies of more than 7,000 leaders showing behavioral differences between men and women in leadership roles. And those differences could have an impact on their career development.

Women focus a lot on getting results, so they tend to get rated higher on the dimensions that are basically on how hard they work and how much they get done.

Using 360-degree assessments of 1,800 leaders from various industries, the first study found that women tended to be rated higher in achieving results, getting work done, being transparent and clear, and building rapport with others. Men  scored higher in strategic planning ability, persuasion, delegation, and being more reserved in expression.

“Women focus a lot on getting results, so they tend to get rated higher on the dimensions that are basically on how hard they work and how much they get done,” said Tricia Naddaff, president of MRG. “There is something about the dynamic of women, sort of that nose to the grindstone, working really hard and getting their teams to work really hard, but perhaps they’re not making enough time to stop and look up over the horizon and see what’s going on.”

In a separate study of 2,718 male and 2,718 female leaders, MRG found that of 22 leadership competencies—ranging from credibility with management to future potential to customer relations—women rated higher in 12, while men rated higher in three. No differences were found in the other seven areas.

Women were rated lower for business aptitude, financial understanding, and big-picture perspective, which “are often things that make a difference around how promotable you’re seen [as being], particularly when you get into higher levels,” Naddaff said. “Of course, now the question is, is it really that women are less effective in those competencies, or is it just a perception? We don’t know. I don’t actually think anybody knows.”

The current findings aren’t perfectly aligned with the results of past research. “We’ve got another set of assessments that measure intellectual inclination to look at the big picture, and men and women score equally on that, so it doesn’t seem to be about motivation or mental orientation,” Naddaff said.

She suggested that future research is needed to clarify the picture.

“[With] research, as always, if you’re lucky you answer one question and end up with three questions you didn’t have to begin with,” she said.


Rob Stott

By Rob Stott

Rob Stott is a contributing editor for Associations Now. MORE

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