Study concludes women are “better suited” to leadership than men

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Amy Swales
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Years after the publication of her bestselling book Lean In, Facebook’s Sheryl Sandberg doesn’t think women in the workplace are any better off – citing the fact that less than 6% of Fortune 500 companies have a female CEO.

However a new study looking into personality and leadership has identified key characteristics of effective leaders and found that women score higher than men in four of the five traits – thus concluding that women “are better suited for leadership than their male colleagues when it comes to clarity, innovation, support and targeted meticulousness.”

Which makes it a bit of a shame that there are still more men named John running FTSE companies than women, doesn’t it?

The research, led by professors Øyvind L. Martinsen and Lars Glasø from the BI Norwegian Business School, assessed nearly 3,000 managers in the private and public sectors and pinned down the following personality traits of effective leadership.

1. Ability to withstand job-related pressure and stress (leaders have a high degree of emotional stability)
2. Ability to take initiative, be clear and communicative (leaders are outgoing, with a high degree of extraversion)
3. Ability to innovate, be curious and have an ambitious vision (effective leaders have a high degree of openness to new experiences)
4. Ability to support, accommodate and include employees (effective leaders display a high degree of sociability)
5. Ability to set goals, be thorough and follow up (effective leaders are generally very methodical)

Women ranked higher in initiative and clear communication, openness and ability to innovate, sociability and supportiveness, methodical management and goal-setting.

The one area the study showed men to be stronger in was dealing with work-related stress; Glasø said the findings suggested that “female leaders may falter through their stronger tendency to worry – or lower emotional stability.”

However he pointed out that the trait did not invalidate the other areas in which women excelled, saying: “This does not negate the fact that they [women] are decidedly more suited to management positions than their male counterparts.

Watch: The most bold and brilliant speeches by women

“If decision-makers ignore this truth, they could effectively be employing less qualified leaders and impairing productivity.”

Martinsen said: “These findings pose a legitimate question about the construction of management hierarchy and the current dispensation of women in these roles.”

Images: iStock


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Amy Swales

Amy Swales is a freelance writer who likes to eat, drink and talk about her dog. She will continue to plunder her own life and the lives of her loved ones for material in the name of comedy, catharsis and getting pictures of her dog on the internet.