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Do Men and Women Have Different Leadership Skills?

by MSM Coaching on 19th November 2012

Despite reservations about gross generalisations, in this particular case I'm going to plunge right in and answer the above question with a YES of course they do! And follow that with another question: how could they not?

Naturally men and women operate in completely different ways - isn't that why domestic relationships work so well? If co-operation in a personal and family setting where organisation, delegation and co-ordination run smoothly (and yes, aware and wary of even more generalisations!) why wouldn't it work equally successfully and productively in a corporate setting?

And, if the above thought is such a common sense foundation from which to work, then maybe the column-inches bewailing lack of women in the upper echelons are coming at things from the wrong angle. If we accept there's no way in the world to make men and women work, reason, extrapolate or emote in the same way - nor should we want to - why are we not wholeheartedly embracing the best of what different genders bring to the party?

I believe strongly that behavior whether in the work place or out of it has to be all about authenticity. I always start from a conviction that we should never set out to change people but rather to open their eyes to what they are, what they've already achieved and what they can aspire to in the future. But the individuality of the person shouldn't ever be radically redirected. Where that happens, as indeed it can through misguided mentoring, coaching or even just because of prevailing culture - it's instinctively recognised and distrusted by others.

Take for example those women managers who believe (or have been told!) success lies in 'masculine' leadership style. It really doesn't work for them does it? It doesn't sit right because it's adopted, it's only skin-deep and because it doesn't ring true they're judged by the people they're managing, as well as by their peers, as not genuine. People must be allowed to follow their own style.

Let's wind up by looking at the way men and women managers, left to their own devices, automatically structure the organisation of a team. Women tend to place themselves at the centre of a group to better facilitate dissemination of information and building of relationships, because that's what they feel most comfortable doing. Men on the other hand are far more likely to develop a chain of command with themselves at the head. So perhaps the best answer to the question above is to say it's the style that defines itself rather than who's exercising it. In the long run we're all individuals and need to work with what comes naturally.

I would love to hear from you. Email me at peter@msm-coaching.com