The six personality traits that women in leadership roles all share

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Victoria Gray

Do you dream of one day being the boss where you work? Or, even better, the CEO of your own business? 

Well notebooks at the ready, because a new study has identified the personality traits that women in leadership roles have in common, including assertiveness, empathy and ego-strength.

Researchers at management consultancy firm Caliper studied the traits associated with women in work and tried to identify if there was a source to the dramatic under-representation of women in top roles at large companies that could be addressed.

They spoke to 85 women at a vice-president or more senior role over a functional area in a company, like sales, marketing or research and asked them to fill out a personality test as well as surveys about how they thought about their success in different areas.

It emerged that the following traits were displayed by the majority of the leaders:

Assertiveness: Being straightforward in your communication style 

Aggressiveness (we prefer the word Drive for this one): Bringing in a constructive, emotional element to move projects forward 

Empathy: Being able to understand and relate to the feelings of others 

Ego-Strength: Being resilient and able to overcome challenges 

Stress Tolerance: Being comfortable in high-stress environments 

Energy: Bringing vitality and enthusiasm to your work


Sheryl Sandberg's book Lean In encouraged empathy and assertiveness

Linking all of these traits positioned women to succeed in both leading a team and the responsibility of a management role.

The research also identified negative traits that might be holding women back from reaching leadership. The data showed that a link between self-analysis and being accommodating can hold you back because success relies on influencing others, as well as taking in their ideas and needs. Dr Thomas E. Schoenfelder who carried out the research, said "Accommodation is the degree that you want to be helpful and liked by others. People with a high level of accommodation struggle in leadership."

The study also identified that women are hampered by a phenomenon known as 'stereotype threat' - when women are alerted to the fact that typically they may not reach leadership, or that the more ruthless qualities associated with leaders are "not feminine", they become less ambitious.

However, the researchers hope that by identifying the traits of successful women, this may inspire women to aspire to them and be less susceptible to stereotype threat.

What do you think? Do women have to display certain traits to reach the top or is it possible for anybody? Let us know your thoughts in the comments, or tweet us @stylistmagazine

Images: Rex Features, Scandal/Facebook, Words: Victoria Gray

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Victoria Gray

Victoria is a contributor for She covers lifestyle and food pieces for the site. When on the internet she can be found tweeting feverishly about Great British Bake Off, and offline she is never happier than when in the company of some wine and cheese.

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