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The Results Are In: Women Are Better Leadersby zengerfolkman March 27, 2012

Forbes Blog by Erika Andersen- Business Thinker and Author

Just read an excerpt of an article from HBR, over at my friend Bob Morris’ blog.  The article, by Jack Zenger and Joseph Folkman, is based on a research study they did of 7,280 leaders in 2011.

They looked at leaders in a variety of positions – from very senior management to ‘individual contributor.’ In the study, they asked others to rate the leaders in 16 leadership competencies.  According to the data shared in the article, they found that women out-scored men in all but one of the 16 competencies, and in 12 of the 16, the women were better by a significant margin. And, in the words of Zenger and Folkman, “two of the traits where women outscored men to the highest degree — taking initiative and driving for results — have long been thought of as particularly male strengths.”

And though there were more males in the study (and the imbalance increased at higher levels, as is the case in most corporations – at the highest level, 78% of the mangers were men), the women were seen as better leaders at every level. Again, in Zenger and Folkman’s words: “…at every level, more women were rated by their peers, their bosses, their direct reports, and their other associates as better overall leaders than their male counterparts — and the higher the level, the wider that gap grows.”

This lines up with my experience. Women are among the most talented and respected leaders in the organizations with which we work; I often find that the women at the 2nd or 3rd level from the top in an organization, especially, are more impressive than their male peers.  They build better teams; they’re more liked and respected as managers; they tend to be able to combine intuitive and logical thinking more seamlessly; they’re more aware of the implications of the their own and others’ actions;  and they think more accurately about the resources needed to accomplish a given outcome.

This study by Zenger and Folkman seems to demonstrate pretty strongly that women are seen as better leaders than men by those around them.  And there are other studies indicating that companies that have a higher representation of women in management ranks are more profitable and have higher employee productivity. And yet – I’ve noted this statistic before, but I’ll say it again in this context: only 33 of the Fortune 1,000 are headed by women.

So, what’s the deal?  Why are women still so woefully under-represented, especially at the most senior levels?

I’d love to hear your sense of why this is still happening.  Here are two elements I think have a big impact:

Women don’t self-promote. Of the 16 leadership competencies Zenger and Folkman assessed, the only one where men outranked women was “develops a strategic perspective.”  One of the areas in which I observe women not developing a strategic view is the advancement of their own careers. I notice that many more men than women focus on where they want to take their careers, and regularly use some part of their time to develop the relationships that will support their success, and offer themselves for outside-their-day-job opportunities that will show their superiors they have the bandwidth and the capability to do more.  Women, on the other hand, tend to put all their energy into simply doing the best possible job in their current position.  We seem much more inclined to believe that work is a meritocracy, and that if you simply work hard and get great results, you’ll get noticed and promoted. Admirable, but not very accurate....

Read the rest of Erika Andersen's analysis of Zenger Folkman's research on her Forbes blog:

http://onforb.es/GQuBWb


10 Comments on “The Results Are In: Women Are Better Leaders”

  1. […] A recent Forbes article cited research by Zenger Folkman stating, “Two of the traits where women outscored men to the highest degree — taking initiative […]

  2. […] Research conducted by Zenger Folkman, which is a company that trains companies in leadership, found that women are generally more effective leaders than men simply because they build better teams and are more liked and respected than men. […]

  3. […] Research conducted by Zenger Folkman, which is a company that trains companies in leadership, found that women are generally more effective leaders than men simply because they build better teams and are more liked and respected than men. […]

  4. […] 2012, the consulting firm Zenger Folkman studied 7,300 leaders and found that women were rated higher in 12 of 16 crucial skills — among them developing others, building […]

  5. […] 2012, the consulting firm Zenger Folkman studied 7,300 leaders and found that women were rated higher in 12 of 16 crucial skills — among them developing others, building […]

  6. […] a male superior as opposed to a woman, because leadership consultancy Zenger Folkman conducted research that concluded women are actually more effective leaders than men. The study considered leaders in […]

  7. […] a male superior as opposed to a woman, because leadership consultancy Zenger Folkman conducted research that concluded women are actually more effective leaders than men. The study considered leaders in […]

  8. Willium says:

    I thing women can equally prove a batter leadership compare to men…. as there are examples in the globe, in Germany, Australia and Pakistan where Benazir Bhutto is great leader and even prime minister too……….

  9. kroger says:

    women are batter leader with two ways as himself motivated and can easily motivate the male too. so its obvious that women can play a vital role of leadership inside the home and outside as well……

  10. Patty says:

    I’ve had women bosses before and they can be a little more complicated to work for than men. Sure, they’re equally qualified to lead but there are nuances that you have to watch out for.

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