Among the terms that surface when executives are asked to describe female leaders: “multitasking,” “empathetic,” “collaborative,” “emotional,” “verbal,” “intuitive,” “relationship-building,” “strong,” “compassionate,” “consensus-building” and “gossipy.”
Among the terms typically used when executives are asked to describe male leaders: “strong,” “arrogant,” “intelligent,” “ego-driven,” “bravado,” “powerful,” “assertive,” “single-tasking,” “competitive,” “stubborn,” “physical” and “direct.”
It’s still true, says University of Minnesota business professor Anne Cummings, that in a laboratory setting, men and women can exhibit the same characteristics and the same results. But, unfortunately, the perception of their accomplishments is different: Men generally are judged more effective.
The good news: In the real world, Cummings sees less difference in how effective male and female leaders are perceived to be.
That’s because real-life people have track records as effective producers, she says, and they operate in real environments of experience and power.
Your next move: Use standard personality assessments, plus the Bem Sex-Role Inventory (found easily by Googling the term), to assess your style.
— Adapted from “The ‘Masculine’ and ‘Feminine’ Sides of Leadership and Culture: Perception vs. Reality,” Leadership and Change, Knowledge@Wharton.
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