This Week's Herman Trend Alert

Leadership in Normal 2.0

  The Herman Trend Alert

April 11, 2012

Why Women Will Lead the Corporation of the Future

Recently Jack Zenger and Joseph Folkman, frequent contributors to the "Harvard Business Review", released findings of an impressive research study focusing on men and women as leaders. Using 360-degree evaluations, they tracked the judgments of a leader's peers, bosses, and direct reports.

They asked participants to rate each leader's effectiveness overall and to judge how strong s/he was in each of their 16 competency areas.

First, of course, as we all know, the majority of leaders (64 percent) are still men. Also not surprising, the higher the level, the greater the percentage of men: 78 percent of the top managers surveyed were men, 67 percent at the next level down (that is, senior executives reporting directly to the top managers), and 60 percent at the manager level below that.

Likewise, our stereotypes tell us that female leaders are good at "nurturing" competencies such as "developing others and building relationships". Many people place "exhibiting integrity" and "engaging in self-development" in that category, too.

However, the advantages women demonstrated were not just the traditional strengths. "In fact, at every level, more women were rated as better overall leaders than their male counterparts by their peers, their bosses, their direct reports, and their other associates." Nevertheless, the results get even more interesting: the higher the level in the organization, the wider the discrepancy between male and female leaders. Therefore, at the highest level, women scored ten percentiles better 67.7 versus 57.7 than their male counterparts---and that represents a 17.3 percent difference!

The rest of the results were fascinating: more specifically, women at all levels received higher ratings in 12 of the 16 competencies that go into outstanding leadership. Moreover, two of the traits where women outscored men to the highest degree---taking initiative and driving for results---have long been considered particularly male strengths.

With the increases in women graduating from colleges and universities*, employers will eventually put the profit motive ahead of stereotypes. However, as long as the majority of male C-Players (as opposed to A- or B-) keep choosing non-threatening male leaders for their direct reports, we will continue to see a proliferation of the status quo.

* Over 60percent of college and university graduates are women.

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