Satyakki Bhattacharjee

Vice President & Chief People Officer, Media content & Communication Services India Pvt.Ltd

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Does Gender Play a Role in Leadership?

Are Leadership Styles of Women Leaders
different from those of Men?

The Style that a Women Leader use –
are they more effective than those used by Men Leaders ?

Is there any data to prove the above
or these are just popular perceptions?

As more and more women take up Leadership positions, what starkly surfaces is the question if Gender plays a Role in Leadership.

Success for women, leading in top position in recent years could be result of strategic purposeful interventions to be inclusive and experimental of women or could also be a naturally progressive result.

Hesitant I was, to use the word ‘experimentation’ above, but then, in the otherwise gender-skewed world of leadership, if experimentation propels women up – it’s a brilliant intervention that has just started yielding results.

Why at all could there be a difference? Is it the ‘Men being Martians, Women being Venusians’ (John Gray) theory that lends some credibility to this thought? Could be, as the underlying Principles and Values deep down inside either genders are diverse. The attitudinal drivers are different. Whereas the Men would have a preference for Structure, tend to be dry and Transactional, somewhat naturally Coercive, talking to ‘mean Business’, and purely Left-Brained; Women on the contrary are often driven by more of Empathy and Consideration, an overall feminine approach of being Transformational and Durability, being naturally more Inclusive and Participatory with a Socialistic, People-Oriented and overall Right-Brained approach.

A key determinant of the Leadership Style deployed by the leader is his or her inherent Core Values. What else could be the reasons; if at all there is a difference? Is there data or this is just fad and talking about it is, being in vogue….?

  • Mar 10 2014: Gender plays an enormous role in leadership, but not by imposing styles on leaders. Gender imposes expectations on followers. A woman who behaves "like a man" is generally disliked by those who are immature and/or stupid. A man who behaves "like a woman" is generally disliked by those who are immature and/or stupid.

    Most people dislike those who do not live up to local expectations of gender roles. What this means about the maturity and stupidity of most people is an exercise for the student.
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      Mar 12 2014: Bryan,

      Based on your statement, for mature and intelligent constituents, gender is a minor or no issue on leadership. Please elaborate. Many of us will benefit from your thoughts on this issue.
  • Mar 15 2014: Men need sex. Women need babies. It is boring at the top of the food chain. At the moment of affirmed pregnancy, men become bored, women keep themselves occupied by raising children. Rivalry is a symptom of boredom.
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    Mar 11 2014: Satyakki, To many variables. If I live in a Arab nation then a woman in leadership is not yet a option. There are always exceptions. In your country the third Prime Minister was Indira Gandhi one of the few women leaders in the world ... In Israel Golda Meir ... Since then many women have been elected / appointed to office or position.

    Hiistorically the woman has been held as the bearer of children and the weaker sex and excluded from "male" areas. Especially in areas where the kill instinct was a major part of the decision making.

    That brings us to the glass ceiling. The glass ceiling metaphor has often been used to describe invisible barriers ("glass") through which women can see elite positions but cannot reach them ("ceiling").

    But, is that true of today. Decisions are no longer one person selecting a path ... corporate decisions are made by presidents, CEO, directors, and boards all making a decision based on current models and consumer needs. Corporations are more concerned than ever about public image ... how does having a woman at the upper levels affect the image / sales / profit margin. What is the target population ... are there political considerations ... the US government requires employment of specific percentages of gender and racial groups if they do business with or subsidize the effort ... then the hiring of a minority female to a exceutive position is "smart business". A sad truth to american business.

    So the answer is gender is a tool to be used in the best interest of the company to meet images, goals, and objectives.

    As bad as that sounds ... it is a giant step from the 18 and 1900's.

    Be well. Bob.
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    Mar 11 2014: In the perception of male dominated society it plays......
    There is little attention to the inherent capability .....rather quick conclusion is there that male should be the leader....what I am talking is about the prevailing practice
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    Mar 11 2014: Wow Bryan, what a point of view! It just puts so many thinks in the right perspective. Indeed there is also an aspect of expectation in the way leadership is experienced. Thanks for contributiong.
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    Mar 8 2014: Dear Lovee,
    Thanks for contributing. Effectiveness of Leadership lies in its acceptance, either willingly or by being submissive. Thats true, but what is being debated is whether the styles deployed by leaders to influnce people around them- do the styles exhibited vary between men and women?
    I am glad that you have an absolute view. I could never have one till now, and hence the debate I initiated.
    Yes, ego plays a factor in acceptance.
    Warm Regards,
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    Mar 8 2014: gender never plays the roles in leadership or anythng else too!!

    its the acceptance by the peers for the leader's thoughts and agendas that make a difference !!

    ego is a factor that cant be ignored too!!
  • Mar 7 2014: Instead of looking the leadership through the lens of gender difference, it should be looked through the lens of psychology.Otherwise some will say that men are better leaders and some will say that women are better leaders.

    But, it is not the question that who is better or who is worse.But, what works behind the scene and what is common in both of them and what is more pronounced in one or the other.

    This is basically the question of whose right brain is more active and whose left brain is more active , whose right brain and left brain work in a balanced way.

    A true leader must use both sides of the brain in a balanced way. A Good leader should lead through his/her right brain and should manage through the left brain.

    When a Woman comes in contact with a Man in business, then the woman thinks that she is going to deal with a man who is left brainist so she should exihibit masculine traits. And on the other side the man thinks that he is going to deal with a woman who is right brainist so he should exhibit some feminine traits.

    So, In this setting the woman will have more chance to close the deal in her favor. Being a Entrepreneur myself I have to deal with both types of leaders who are females as well as males. Some , female and males leaders understand the situation better and they cooperate, and some female and male leaders whose left brain is more active they fail to understand and so they don't cooperate.
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      Mar 7 2014: A Whole- Brained Approach than a Left or right Brained Approach is what you are highlighting. Yes, thats what brings a sense of balance.
      Best Regards and thanks for contributing.
  • Mar 7 2014: I know that some studies published in HBR that said female managers are different but in my experience both male and female managers seemed to have the same methods and core values. The good ones are very good and the bad ones are very, very bad.
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      Mar 7 2014: Dear Wayne,
      You are right. Its the Competence that deserves the Salute. Competence is Ultimate decider.
      But does Competence vary with gender? If competence lies in manifestations of the overall Self then I do think that being right brained or left Brained does affect the leadership styles. And as per the Ned Hermann Brain Dominance Theory and his Instrumented Research , Women are usually Right Brained.
      Love and Respect for you contribution,
      • Mar 10 2014: I guess I judge mgmt by:

        1. Support the team
        2. make sure they have the resources they need
        3. protect them from interruptions, especially from upper mgmt
        4. reward the team, not individuals.

        I do not care how they do it
    • Mar 14 2014: hi Dear wayne,what do you mean:the bad ones?what managers resposibilities for?