Saturday, May 5, 2012

Leadership 101 - Trait Approach: Just How Well Do Women Leaders Stack Up?

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After a century of research scholars have come to varying conclusions on what the most desirable leadership traits one must possess.  The general consensus is that the top five traits are:
·         Intelligence
·         Determination
·         Self-Confidence
·         Integrity
·         Sociability



Along with these five core traits Emotional Intelligence is quickly gaining credibility in both academic and corporate circles.

Trait approach in itself suggests that leaders that possess the aforementioned traits make better leaders and organizations led by individuals possessing these qualities will succeed at a higher rate.  While the Trait Approach is by no means the only recognized leadership theory it is often the most familiar.  Peruse the bookstore or your local library and you will no doubt see plenty of leadership guides that recommend this type of approach as it lends itself easily to the self-aware consumer.  That said the Trait Approach is a very good place to start when examining the value of females in leadership roles.

Intelligence is most often referred to as intellect or knowledge.  Unfortunately, when it comes to intelligence neither the male or female gender has any clear advantage however, to the self-aware (and how many women do we know that aren’t?) intelligence can and should be continually developed.   It is certainly advised that as technology advances at a rapid rate those of us who choose not to invest in continuing education will quickly lose any advantage they currently possess.  Leaders who keep up with the times are likely to continue to progress along with the rest of society.

Self-confidence and determination are correlated when it comes to workplace performance.  Determination as characterized by the Trait Approach refers to exhibiting initiative, persistence or drive.  Studies show that corporate culture has a strong influence on how women exhibit these characteristics.  Culture that fosters lack of support and discouraging senior management and peers has a negative impact on female performance and drive.  On the contrary strong drive and performance are highly associated with the existence of mentor programs, opportunities for networking and clubs like industry societies; particularly those geared specifically for women in male dominated industries. In general, confidence in one’s abilities and optimism have been shown to be strongly related to workplace performance and women leaders that foster this type of culture will see female peers and subordinates flourish in their respective roles.

Integrity like intelligence is developed by a personal commitment to self-examination and continual improvement.  The most important thing to remember is that in this age of networking and technology everything we do is never far behind us.  Today it is very possible to encounter people you have worked with in the past in future roles so it is imperative to remember that our reputations can precede us and influence our future opportunities.  Leaders that foster and integrity in the workplace benefit their colleagues and their organizations by creating solid reputations that can increase profitability both personally and corporately via the development of a good name.

Within the framework of the Trait Approach to leadership sociability is central to the success of a leader as most people will naturally follow someone they easily relate to.   Remember leadership is nothing more than influence and learning to exercise that influence is the central purpose behind leadership study. While we cannot approximate that either gender is superior when it comes to sociability this is an area that female leaders can employ their individual strengths and cultivate social skills that allow them to advance as leaders.  Studies show that women generally have greater difficulty exerting influence than men do in positions of leadership.  This is particularly true in situations where influence that conveys competence and authority is required.   As a result common misconceptions would assert that in order to be more effective women leaders should emulate their male counterparts and lead like they do.  However, I believe this is an area where females can utilize their femininity to assert influence in ways that are unique to the female gender and capitalize on them.

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1 comment:

  1. In my opinion, the top five leadership traits are: responsibility, integrity, determination, self-confidence and the last, but not least communication... because if we don't know how to communicate well with others, we can't have a good working environment.
    I've learned about this subject and I found out new things about it from a leadership training seminar, held at http://www.robinsonleadership.com... really interesting and every employee should follow one.

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