Leadership is the engine that drives activity within organizations and nations. Given that now millennials and Gen Z constitute a sizeable portion of the global workforce (21per cent) according to World Employment and Social Outlook: Trends 2020 by International Labour Organization, they have expectations for a flexible workplace with a diverse constitution of senior management (according to Catalyst, a New York City-based research firm). Now, a connected 21st century calls for a new breed of leaders. In the previous century, men dominated workplaces and gained leadership roles. However, now more people are open to having either men or women as a boss as revealed in a Gallup poll (2020) with 20 per cent of the respondents comfortable with having a female boss. Moreover, a study by Harvard Business Review (2020) incorporated responses from 454 men and 366 women to see how men and women fared in 19 leadership competencies. The results indicated that women were better than men in 13 of the 19 competencies. Let us look at some ways in which women are excelling as leaders through some of the researched leadership styles.
LeadersIn, a UK-based organization that studies leadership, has found through research that women leaders exhibit this style the most. A transformational leader seeks to motivate people to achieve the bigger goals or vision of a company. They encourage self-development as they have full knowledge of the strengths and weaknesses of their team members and know how they can inspire others to improve themselves. Such leaders exhibit a high preference for ethical behaviour in dealings with others and support a workplace based on integrity and honesty. New Zealand’s Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, media mogul Oprah Winfrey and former PepsiCo CEO Indira Nooyi are some leaders who adopt this leadership style.
This is understood as a style that focuses on the tasks that need to be completed to achieve targets or goals. Tasks like planning, scheduling and delegating are given the most importance. According to LeadersIn, both men and women have the capacity for this style. However, women tend to be more democratic and inclusive while managing as a task-oriented leader. Men, on the other hand, are prone to be autocratic while doing so. Speaker of the United States House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi and former British Prime Minister Theresa May are examples of female leaders who have exhibited this style.
Women, like men, can be directive too when it comes to their leadership style. However, if they act authoritatively and come across as domineering, it usually works against them as some people are not used to seeing women this way. Because of this, they may have to resort to pleasing their subordinates in hopes that they will obey, developing a personality that is a mix of autocratic balanced with interpersonal, democratic and communal aspects. While a style that is modified to meet agreement could be effective still, it is hoped that women who know how to deliver in a directive manner do not have to adapt. Former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, titled the “Iron Lady,” is an example of a directive leader who prioritized making decisions on her own and sending orders down.
Servant leadership style is assumed to be present in what is considered to be “feminine” characteristics, such as being less authoritarian, being encouraging of others, foregoing one’s interests over combined interests, advocating the use of shared power and considering interpersonal skills as a way to influence others.
Cheryl Bachelder, CEO of Popeyes Louisiana Kitchen, wrote a book titled Dare to Serve: How to Drive Superior Results by Serving Others. In it she explains her story of transforming the results for a failing Popeyes by focusing on people as the main drivers of success, advocating for collaboration and upholding respect and dignity of people as central values.
The first female president and CEO of Campbell Soup Company Denise Morrison, who served between the years 2011 and 2018, led with the belief that the service of the people was the most important aspect. She evolved from a results-focused and methodical leader to one who prioritized people and relationships in the pursuit of mutual achievement. On the advice of a mentor, she invested in her relationships at work and came to the realization that going far required the support of others.
This is a fairly recent style of leadership, coined by the organization LeaderShape, that means going beyond the ego. It places types of intelligences in a hierarchy based on the ability to develop them: intellectual at the lowest rung, emotional in the middle and ethical at the highest level. Transpersonal leaders operate on well-respected ethical, emotional and cognitive principles. Such leaders believe in exemplifying ego-levelling behaviour and coaching others to help them improve themselves professionally. They also care about the moral aspects of their actions and decisions and try and instill the same sense within their organizations.
Angela Merkel, the first female chancellor of Germany who served four consecutive terms until the year 2018, boosted the German economy by a third during her tenure. Her leadership style revolved around her relatively low ego and a strong sense of duty balanced with her highly educated background and proficient emotional capabilities.
Like Jacinda Ardern, Denmark’s Prime Minister Mett Frederiksen’s response to the coronavirus crisis was also exemplary. She swiftly acted to curb the spread of the disease by relying on a collaborative approach and timely decision-making. She believes in being approachable and relatable and does not shy away from showing herself on social media singing while doing dishes.
There has certainly been a radical change in the concept of a leader now from someone who just gets the work done using whatever method suits the situation to someone who knows how to get the work done using the most positive, uplifting, inclusive and reformational method to do so. Many women leaders are surely examples to look up to in this regard. //
Arslan Ahmed | Contributing Writer