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Gender Differences in Leadership Styles and Behaviour

Overview of the study: The term “leaders” refers to persons holding formal positions of leadership in complex organizations in industry, government, education, politics, the arts, sciences, and professions. Historically, gender precluded most females from becoming leaders in such organizations; as a result, the assumption that males were better suited than females for leadership roles was, until recently, rarely questioned. Certainly much progress has been made particularly within the middle management ranks of the corporate world where women now hold about 45% of the professional, dministrative, and managerial positions.

However, the idea of women in top leadership roles is still difficult for many to grasp (presence of a so-called “glass ceiling” is said to have inhibited women from advancing to the highest level of management in most organizations), and the women who do succeed in attaining those positions need to be both exceptional and exceptionally able to deal with enormous social and psychological pressures. It is clear that women have found it more difficult to move up the organizational ladder.

But is it a difference in leadership styles that has impeded women’s progress? One big issue that the society might not have taken into consideration is that these assumed differences may also depend on other reasons such as age, background, culture or education. It is obvious that leadership is a male dominated one. Leaders are often described with adjectives such as “competitive,” “aggressive,” or “dominant,” which are typically associated with behaviours has been described as driven by older stereotypes that favour men as having more leadership qualifications.

Sywensky and Madden (1996) argue that even when women have the skills and abilities necessary to effectively lead in an rganization; they may still have difficulty convincing others of their leadership capacity. Sometimes this pressure might lead to a form of “double-bind” wherein a woman leader must act tough and authoritative (i. e. masculine) in order to be taken seriously but may be perceived negatively when she acts in a more aggressive manner (Oakley, 2000).

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