Let the best man or woman step forward

New Zealand is ranked amongst the worst in the world for women in leadership positions with only one female CEO in New Zealand’s top 50 businesses (Kate McKenzie, Chorus CEO.)  We’ve made inroads with the election of Jacinda Ardern but there is still a long way to go!


It’s time for a grown-up conversation about Leadership. 

Research studies have shown that when it comes to the workplace, women tend to be more transformational leaders; are better at motivating employees and transforming them into better people; emphasise team work and communication;  invest time coaching their team; and care more about personal development.  Men on the other hand, tend to be transactional leaders scoring higher on traits like confidence, aggression, risk taking, strategic vision and personal impact.

“The female brain is predominately hard-wired for empathy.  The male brain is predominately hard-wired for understanding and building systems.”~ Simon Baron-Cohen, Cambridge Uni psychologist and autism expert.

Women think differently and bring different skills to the boardroom.  These differences arise from societal expectations, hormones and physiological differences in the female brain.  Simply we are different!  For example:

  • The ratio of white and grey matter is different. Men’s brains use 7x more grey matter than women for processing so are often more focused and easily follow through a vision.  Women utilise 10x more white matter so are better equipped to transition between tasks.
  • Our brain hemispheres are set up differently. The language centre for men is typically in the dominant / left hemisphere, whereas women are more likely to have verbal centres on both sides of the brain facilitating stronger communication skills, larger vocabularies and superior interpersonal communication when compared with men. 
  • Gender socialisation. From a young age boys are traditionally encouraged to be brave, powerful, strong, decision makers. Girls are taught to be nice, accommodating and nurturing.
  • Hormones: women typically have higher oxytocin (the cuddle / social bonding hormone) levels than men – a physiological signature for empathy, trust and collaboration. Men produce more testosterone which has been shown to have effects on focus, determination, confidence, drive and energy.

So who make the better leaders?  Neither!  The best leaders are those who recognise the differences between the gender skillsets and embrace a style that utilises the best of both.


What does this mean for the leaders of the future?

Male and female leaders need to become more self-aware; to know their own strengths and weaknesses as well as their teams.  True leaders need to be compassionate and emotionally connected to their staff; to be able to identify needs and develop creative solutions to resolve them; and have the gutsy courage, grit and determination to see a change through.  Research shows that when people are aware of their strengths and address their weaknesses they create better relationships, perform better, find engagement and success at work, and overall lead a happier, more balanced life.  Leadership is not just for business tycoons.  It’s for men and women, parents and teachers, young and old, introverts and extroverts.  Isn’t it time you stepped up, leveraged your strengths, addressed your weakness’ and use them to positively impact the world?


Image credit:  Nathan Walker.

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