Last year, Talent Innovations, the 360 degree feedback specialist, conducted a survey of leaders and found that men and women had different leadership strengths.
This was no straw poll—which is why I felt it deserved much more attention— as they took in the views of almost 14,000 leaders. So, the survey was expansive, including a large and statistically significant data set.
The survey itself looked at 18 leadership competencies and compared how the sample of 14,000 men and women leaders performed against these competencies. As I have already hinted at, the results were intriguing.
Men are more strategic, women make better project managers
The key overall finding from the survey was that women had superior skills in planning and managing activities, and were better able to show respect and empathy for others and had a better sense of personal responsibility. These were qualities that the researchers concluded would make them better project managers.
Men, on the other hand, had superior strategic vision, commercial focus and personal impact, which suggests that they are better in more strategic senior roles.
Females adopt a more social leadership style
Elva Ainsworth, MD and the spokesperson for the survey, proposed that the female leadership style is much more social. Broken down, this means that while female leaders excel at prioritizing, multitasking, hitting deadline and keeping commitments, they manage to balance this with empathy, social sensitivity and being great listeners. It is this combination of skills that make them good project managers.
Men adopt a more rational and practical leadership style
Men, on the other hand are good at making a strong first impression, confidently putting across their views, being visible about the business and making their all round presence felt, but this is tempered with being less socially sensitive and more focused on the practical and commercial elements of goal acquisition.
So, who’s the best?
As you can see, this results strongly imply that women have built-in traits that make them better project managers, but the man’s innate qualities mean that they make better strategic leaders.
It’s not battle of the sexes, it’s balance of the sexes
While bold in its initial objectives, the survey findings don’t have to be the next bloody chapter in the war between the sexes. The survey principals were clear in their conclusions that companies that could generate a harmonious balance of both styles of leadership would be able to achieve optimal performance. This last statement is all well and good, but since selection based on gender is illegal in most countries in the world, there is no fair way to work towards an optimal balance of male and female leadership.
Still, I think the survey findings are real food for thought even though they do not provide any license to act on these thoughts.
Don’t try this at home
Just to be clear, although the survey suggests that females make better project managers and men make better strategists, we cannot recruit on this basis. Gender is an unfair and prohibited discrimination criteria in the U.S., UK and most other countries in the world.