Where Men Leaders are Better Than Women
Talking about gender stereotypes is dangerous.
It was interesting and less dangerous to see research indicating women leaders are better than men in specific areas, statistically speaking. See: “It’s Harder for Women than Men”
Where men leaders are better than women is an awkward question. Men dominate top executive roles nine to one. It feels like the gorilla is yelling, “See how strong I am.” It has the feel of putting down and keeping down. Having said that, it stands to reason if women are better than men in some areas, men are better than women in others.
During our conversation titled, “Where women leaders are better than men,” a female reader indicated interest in what people thought men leaders were better at. I got some feedback on my Facebook page, as well.
Men are better at:
- Being objective.
- Being brave in large gatherings.
- Analytical – trust cold logic.
- Delegating without meddling.
- Trusting in themselves.
- Seeing the big picture.
(Unlike the post on women leaders, no research backs up these points. They are feedback from readers.)
Denying differences between men and women degrades, devalues, and obscures unique gifts and abilities. There’s power in diversity.
The danger of stereo types is untested assumptions. Some men are great nurturers and some women delegate without meddling. Don’t throw individuals in an assumptions bucket. But, if the stereo type fits, wear it. Don’t belittle it.
The real opportunity of diversity is leveraging unique strengths, not making everyone the same. Sameness is boring. Sameness dilutes.
I felt it useful to discuss the strengths of women leaders because they are still a minority in top roles. I don’t feel the same interest concerning men. However, I love celebrating womanliness and manliness as long as it’s not at the expense of the other gender.
Leadership talent and ability is not gender based. It is based on the knowledge, experience, style, ability and DNA of the individual – unfortunately corporate America continues to lag behind in understanding this from a recognition and compensation standpoint.
Hi Mary Jo,
The DNA component of leadership is interesting. Strength bases leadership philosophies suggest leaders are born rather than made. Leadership is about who we are before it is about what we do. I think this adds an interesting wrinkle to conversations like this.
You might add leadership ability includes the context and situation. Where one leader excels another stumbles.
but in government situations why aren’t women elected as leaders? you might say queens are leaders but they don’t do much it’s still the parliaments that make decisions
Hi Dan – I think this is well stated, but then again, I’m a guy.
A bit more seriously: at times it feels to me as though the male v. female comparisons are simply another form of labeling (although – in at least the vast majority of situations – there is physiological evidence supporting the label).
It often feels easier to work with the perspective that “if you’ve seen one person you’ve seen … one person.” Keep an open mind, be aware of each person’s strengths and not strengths, and as a leader, focus on making best use of the strengths and either minimize the impact or figure out if / how to raise the not strengths.
If we take any list of characteristics we can always find a wide array of people, of all races, creeds, beliefs, etc. who fit the list. Some lists are easier to find than others. But when hiring, we know which list we hope to find.
Labeling (which to be clear – I’m NOT accusing you of, Dan! You’re leading an intelligent discussion) is another form of judging. Judging can be a distraction. Focus on the problem and opportunity, and the people you want alongside you, and better results will occur.
Thanks for advancing so many helpful dialogues, Dan. JB
I’m thankful this conversation isn’t going of the rails. Thankfully, Freak readers don’t get to freaky even when the topic could be touchie,
I love your statement, “If you’ve seen one person, you’ve seen one person.” Brilliant…
Have a great weekend.
Thank you Dan for your persistence 🙂 You “see the big picture”. There is of course a lot of sameness – we are people – and this also make it possible to relate and make it easier to be compassionate. we are thankful for that but at the same time I love to see our differences. I know that there is a place for all of us. A place where every uniqueness fit perfectly. If we just dare to be authentic. That is THE challange. It is not easy to be authentic. There are roles to fit into, people to please, battles to be fought. But when all that is said – the best we can do ever – is to encourage one another. This is what you are doing so wonderfully.
I wish you all a sunny weekend!
YOu are nailing it. It’s not easy to be authentic, especially if we are sensitive to how others feel and what they think of us. Which all high EQ folks are.
I think roles are valuable but as you indicate, they are also restrictive and limiting.
Thanks for your encouragement,
Someday maybe we will just hire a person because they can and not because of what gender they are. Just because they can and not what color they are. Just because they can and not to meet some ratio of balance. Just because they can.
Thanks for joining the conversation. You remind me of MLK:
“I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.”
At this point the “good ole boys club” and the “glass ceiling” still exist.
YOu have my best,
Let me start by saying I really enjoy your blog. I usually read it when cooling down from my morning workout.
I want to clarify that I do not want equality and equal abilities to be confused by my statement. Sure there are differences in men and women in many ways, but often we are not that different. Approaches may be different but quality leaders will often come to the same conclusion even if they choose a different course of action.
Perhaps one of the challenges of equal rights is our discomfort with unequal abilities.
Love the observation that different leadership styles may result in divergent processes but still yield the same results.
This is certanly a starting point for a conversation, and I hope people (of either gender) don’t get bent out of shape before thinking more deeply about it.
One point I’d throw into the mix revolves around #2: “Being brave in large gatherings.” If men were judged the way women are (Is my hair OK? Do my shoes go well enough with this outfit? Did I wear this last time I spoke here? Is my face too shiny? Is my skirt too short? Is my skirt too long?…….) they would be a lot less brave about standing up in front of a large group.
I’m sure that similar points can be made about many of the other statements.
Generalizations are problematic, and are often like Chuck Close’s portraits or the works of the Pointalists: From far away, we think we see a clear picture, when up close, the image breaks down.
Get to know the person, not the gender, and the stereotypes vanish. And none of us has ever met “a gender.”
Thanks for all you do. – Roy
It’s always a pleasure seeing you. Thanks for stopping in.
YOur Pointalist illustration is beautiful.
I also love how you bring the double standard to the front without being pedantic.
I value you and your insights.
Dan, I’m so glad you had the courage to talk about the strengths of each gender. Men and women are different. Hurray! I’m not sure how or why we ever thought they were or should be the same. Each gender and each person is different. If we are all unique with different personalities, different skill sets, different talents, different reactions. That’s part of what makes leadership a challenge and fun, but also keeps it from being boring. If we were all the same, we wouldn’t need leaders. Anyone could guide the pack and get the job done. Understanding the unique contribution each individual can make, regardless of gender, race, age, etc. and putting all the right pieces in place is the hallmark of good leadership. Thanks for reminding us that we are different.
I’m a woman and I totally agree!!! Let’s not mistake our worth with equality! Equality is a myth and we should embrace our differences!!! Hello people, there are reasons we aren’t the same! I’m sure as a society we all know we are all “human” and deserve “human rights” that’s not the issue! The issue is that there are far too many maculine women and vice versa for men… Let’s embrace our differences! Thanks to the feminists, women must still have and raise a family, bear children AND work!! Great more work for us!! I feel so liberated… NOT!
Mona Lisa smile? Or, at another extreme, look up a Brit called Katie Hopkins. She’ll give you plenty to work with/on.
If the desired outcome is a dead dragon. I doesn’t matter whether you had the courage to stand before it with a sword or you just poisioned the sucker, it’s just as dead either way. Our education, experience, and environment dictate methodology. In today’s global environment it takes an array of diverse opinions working collaboratively to succeed. And for the record that is more than just male vs female.
I’m posting this for Kelly:
“It’s hard for me to tell if these lists are examples of things people have seen in leaders in their lives, or whether they saw these strengths because they expected to see them. I mean, men are better at being logical while women are more empathetic? Really? I realize exceptions may prove the rule, but I am a woman who is known for being “the engineer” while a male colleague in my organization is “the philosopher.” Then again, maybe these are just two different approaches to logical argument?
The main difference I have seen firsthand is in how people of different genders deal with stating an opinion when they are uncertain. I have found that many men will state it with utter confidence and leave out any information that acknowledges the margin of error or the “known unknowns.” This is a useful skill in negotiation, often. (But as a woman, it makes me crazy when I realize that a man has basically shut down the conversation with the sheer strength of his idea/opinion, only to acknowledge privately, later, that he really didn’t have that level of evidence to back up his argument, and he knew it. Men will do this unconsciously, not necessarily on purpose, I’ve found.)
On the other hand, women will often more readily acknowledge what they don’t know, and will give a gauge of how certain they are, leaving more room for other opinions. This can sometimes undermine negotiations where confidence is key, but it makes for more meaningful discussion of ideas when making decisions as a team.
Anyway… those are just my two cents in what has been an interesting series of posts.”
I have been looking forward to this. Just six eh? I’m with you on this one; but let’s also look at those circumstances where women dominate. I had the privilege of looking after my son two days a week a few long years ago. I was one of few males attending “sing and sign-language” classes; my male friends were at work most of the time. I had more difficulty persuading a female boss to enable me to support my wife’s career development than I had anticipated. I entered an almost exclusively female world. One strong memory was of the magazines and pamphlets: oriented for women almost every time! But this is, perhaps, no surprise (we know which TV shows are in mind!). We should also look at other environments where male participators (let alone leaders) are the exception rather than the rule. We should also look at changing trends. In the UK there have been more females entering Universities; they dominate certain sectors (like education). So where are we headed? Because is there a risk that females are more than willing to talk up other females; is the “old girls club” now becoming even more powerful, as time goes on, and women educate women and men? A final thought: two of England’s most successful monarchs were female (Elizabeth I and Victoria I) and Baroness Thatcher had not a bad reputation stateside. When Hilary Clinton talked about the glass ceiling having a crack in it (just after losing the Presidential race to B Obama) I wonder if Queen Victoria, on whose Empire the sun never set, turned in her grave and wondered if Mrs Clinton had yet found the Great Glass Elevator!
I found #2 (Being brave in large gatherings) amusing. Our project leadership team consists of 13 men and 2 women (including myself). Whenever the group gets together, the men say nothing! Being brave in large gatherings has less to do with gender and more to do with introversion/extroversion. Extroverts have an easier time in large groups.
In my experience, #5 (Trusting in themselves) is a difference between genders. I think Kelly’s comment about how men state opinions illustrates this perfectly.
Thanks so much for doing this series of articles. They have been thought-provoking!
Liza, I love this. Sometimes it may just be a numbers game; are men as courageous when outnumbered; how about women? There is a great film (sure you’ve seen it) called “The Tale of ‘O'”. I first watched it whilst sitting next to a fellow student; we both saw the truth of it. I’m a male with a Christian background; she’s a muslim. Anyway, in case you’ve not seen it before, take a look: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p56b6nzslaU
Once you’ve watched it think about numbers and algebra and equality and diversity: 1 and 2 are equally numbers but they have different values. That’s a start.
I hadn’t seen that video before. Pretty cool way to explain any type of differences. Thanks for sharing!
I work in the video game industry, so everyone is “weird”, “odd” or “different”. Still, even in such a diverse industry, I have seen the “X” tendencies. At least I still have a sense of humour about it!
Interesting discussion. I think people ARE beginning to accept the notion that there is a place in the leadership circle for both “feminine” and “masculine” leadership strengths. I only wish that our culture and society could better accept the display of any strength from any sex. I think that we are still fighting that battle. For example, my experience is that when women are overtly “objective”, “analytical”, and “trust cold logic” in their leadership style and decision-making, they are likely to be perceived negatively, as “heartless you know whats”, rather than as strong leaders. When men display those traits, those qualities are perceived as strengths. And, I might add, often other women are just as likely to react this way as men. To a lesser degree men face similar negative perceptions when they try to lead with characteristics that are traditionally identified as “feminine” strengths.
I guess what I am trying to say is that, we have made progress, but I think that we still have work to do before, as a society, we can fully recognize and accept the strength of each person, no matter what sex s/he is.
That few? Queen Elizabeth I found it tough to reach, and stay, at the top as monarch. For quite some years, she was also expected to find a husband. A tough job in the circumstances. I wonder which attributes she would have selected? And, then, in more modern times whether one would get a different response if one asked for comments on different types of men: single; married; gay; divorced; asian; caucasian; blonde; afro-carribbean; hispanic; old; young; … I agree with all above who see the person’s track record, current focus and capabilities before they see anything else. Elizabeth I chose not to get married. An error as it turned out? Or yet to be determined?
^ Whoops! Posting by mobile phone; first one hadn’t up-dated so tried something shorter to see if it would work! Apologies for appearing twice. “That few” referred to the number of areas where men were seen to be better than women.
Interesting. Two of your points are characteristics of introverts vs. extroverts according to this talk which you may have seen:
Leadership characteristics might be a giant 3-D matrix in which gender, personality type, experience, culture, etc. all interact.
… and that matrix just doesn’t apply to said leader, but also to the organization in which s/he is trying to lead.
We have alot of gender disagregation data inputed into work plans, country plans and organisation plans in the role I am currently serving in. We also have women preference and representation in senior position within organisation be it governments, regional organisations or internaional organisations. I am an advocate for equal representation as picking criteria based on gender alone sometimes give men less of a chance to get employed when their CVs or resumes indicate compatibility to do the job well. Qualification wise, I have found men although lagging in some areas continue to dominate consultancy applications and other techincal positions. In areas where a woman candidate has excelled I am equally compelled to provide recommendation that the candidate is an exceptional candidate. Overall, men tend to dominate the workforce in the field I am employed in with some women dominating key areas of these global organisations.
Thanks for the thought provoking post, althoug the fab nowadays is gender balance. Individual qualities and comptency seem to talk the talk at the end of the day along with performance irrespective of gender.
Reblogged this on will2ventures.
Glad we are noticing the differences in a non-stereotype way. I still think that the dodgy part is in the ‘better’ component. Margaret Thatcher, the UK PM was a far better leader than her contemporaries (all men) in her party. She was better than many post-WWII UK political leaders. However, when we think of the scale of the leadership task for a PM her processor Winston Churchill was a ‘better’ leader than Thatcher. But, both were born to battle unfavorable odds. Does it their gender matter?
If we analyze leadership based on gender differences as though it’s a contest as to who’s better we won’t get very far. If we analyze the differences based on skills, attitudes, values and so on we get a clearer picture of what makes leadership work.
Dan, Thank you for bravely taking on an important topic. As a female, I am often reluctant to engage in similar discussions or to declare myself a woman’s advocate because I don’t like the occasional whining tone or the competitive nature, and, frankly, I enjoy working with men. I believe it is important to have a diverse group. Men seem more likely to take on certain characteristics, and women often take on others. I like the statement above that “when you have seen one person, you have seen one person.” That is important to remember. I also like Alan’s comments above comparing Churchill and Thatcher. I wonder if they could have traded places (when they were PM’s) and been nearly as successful as they were. Churchill’s skills were very different than Thatcher’s. For this reason, I believe it is important to look at many components of a leadership role. Who are the people involved? What are the skills needed? What external forces are at work? What are internal factors? It is the person’s background, personality, skill, and sometimes, yes, gender, that will make him or her more or less successful in a given leadership role. It may be useful to consider tendencies of males or females, but I think the important point is how they work together and how an individual is able to function in a given setting.
I like this
Not helping, pls talk about Male presidents
This is a wow
I love this
The problem is when people start attributing leadership qualities with masculine qualities. Being objective, seeing the bigger picture, a little bit of narcissism, charismatic, team worker, risk taking, never giving up. These are leadership qualities and not just masculine qualities at all. We attribute them to men because all the major leaders have always been men. Just like we call “google it” instead of search it even though it’s not a verb. Saying that, all these attributes can be built in both genders but they express it differently. And that’s the difference we should start appreciating. Women leaders should not be forced to express these attributes like men. Also we will never reach equality in leadership positions or in any other profession until we start building that entrepreneurial zeal in women. For that we have to change the way we see and criticism leaders. And for equality of opportunity, women should be given equal opportunity for leadership roles and paid maternity leave and men helping out at household chores. Less harassment, not appointing bad leaders to a managerial position because they belong to the poker club. But if leaders were appointed based on meritocracy then we wouldn’t have so many bad leaders. Equality of outcome will never help women even the women who are actually good leaders will be branded as “diversity symbols” which btw is a real thing. I think the answer to all these problems is “meritocracy, pure meritocracy”. Even though women will have more obstacles especially with time, I think most them would be fine with it if we had “meritocracy”. At last I want good deserving leaders not men or women leaders.