Women behaving as leaders

In the 1999 New Zealand Leadership
Survey, managers from around the country were surveyed about the leadership capability of their immediate subordinates. In this way, we attempted to gain an insight into the leadership capabilities of the emerging cohort of managers who will run business in the private and public sectors in the next 5-10 years.

Women better on average
In line with previous research in other countries, it was found that levels of transformational and transactional leadership were moderated by gender. In general, women were rated higher than men on the most effective leadership qualities and on contingent reward, and lower than men on some of the transactional qualities of leadership. As the table shows, the greatest difference of perceived leadership style found was for management-by-exception (passive) and laissez-faire leadership, which were displayed on average between 13 percent and 15 percent more frequently by male managers than by female managers.
These results were generally consistent and don’t appear to be product of same-gender/opposite-gender rating effects.
This also agrees with previous research. The only difference was slight tendency for female raters to perceive greater differences between female and male leadership styles than male raters. In other words, the bars on the table would have been slightly longer for female raters, and slightly shorter for male raters.
Interestingly, this finding perhaps reflects the notion that women are better able to identify and empathise with the various messages they receive through interactions with their coworkers, whether those co-workers are male or female.
As demonstrated elsewhere, transformational leadership is positively correlated with desirable leadership outcomes, while transactional leadership is less correlated with desirable leadership outcomes. Therefore it’s possible that because women demonstrate more transformational leadership on average, they may achieve better leadership outcomes than men. The results support this suggestion.
Female leaders were rated as generating slightly, but significantly, greater levels of work effort and better perceptions of effectiveness from their followers than male leaders do (see Table). Although ratings of satisfaction with their leadership were also slightly higher for female leaders on average, this was non-significant difference.

The future
Our leaders demonstrate relatively high rates of transformational leadership qualities when compared with results from studies conducted in Australia and the US. These results provide an encouraging view of the future leadership in New Zealand.
Although the gender differences of leadership style are slight, they are both statistically and theoretically significant. These results indicate the great potential benefits of not restricting women from moving into leadership roles in the future.
Responses from the survey also indicate that women were better represented than men at the lower levels of management which were the subject of this research.
It will be interesting to see if these women, on average better leaders, move up to more senior management positions in the next 5-10 years.
In addition, leadership development that encourages traditionally more ?feminised’ leadership styles, including transformational leadership, while minimising more ?masculine’ and transactional leadership styles may enhance leadership in general in New Zealand.

Development and merit
To generalise based on gender would discriminate against the many exceptions to the rule. Each person must be evaluated on merit. There are many men who are very transformational, and many women who are very transactional.
However, as general rule, women in New Zealand are no less capable than men of being effective leaders.
Ironically, when the display of transformational leadership is increased, the display of less effective transactional behaviour is seen to decrease.
This phenomenon is already displayed in leadership development undertaken by the Centre for the Study of Leadership. Therefore although transformational and transactional leadership augment one another they are also in some ways the opposing ends of seesaw.
If you reduce your display of transactional leadership, you must be increasing the display of transformational leadership, while the correct balance between the two will support effective leadership. The correct balance is achieved by maximising the display of transformational leadership.
Ken Parry is the Director of The Centre for the Study of Leadership. Copies of the monograph of the 1999 New Zealand Leadership Survey are available from the Centre for $15: Centre for the Study of Leadership, Victoria University, PO Box 600, Wellington, Email [email protected]

Visited 5 times, 1 visit(s) today

A focus on culture

Rabobank’s 520-plus New Zealand employees work from 27 locations – places like Ashburton, Pukekohe and Feilding and from a purpose-built head office in Hamilton. Its employees are proud of the

Read More »
Close Search Window