10 Ways Women Are Naturally Better Leaders
I read something very thought provoking this week. So thought provoking in fact, I had to stop reading, write it down, and reflect on it. In her book, Leadership Reconsidered, Ruth Tucker writes, “As gender conscious as society has become, leadership is still very much a man’s world.”
What interested me isn’t what Ms. Tucker realized – that women hold fewer formal authoritative leadership roles such as a CEO or senior executive. She’s right, as a quick Google search confirms. What DOES interest me is the fact that as a society, we frequently (and erroneously) define “leadership” as someone in a formal position of authority. What bothers me is the perception that simply because women hold fewer formal positions of authority in our country, they aren’t in “leadership.” I’m not writing an article here on feminism but rather I want to clear up the confusion and dismantle the illusion that “leadership” is about having a title, rank, or position of “BOSS.”
As John C. Maxwell says, “Leadership is influence. Nothing more, nothing less.”
When we set titles, rank, position, and organization chart aside, we realize that authentic leadership is about influence with other people. Some of the greatest leaders in the world’s history didn’t have authority to MAKE anyone do anything. But, they had influence. Like Mother Teresa, for example. She had incredibly positive influence over millions of people! Talk about leadership – when your vision is as big as hers was and you are committed to carrying it out at all costs, you lead and influence millions.
There is no doubt men and women have different leadership styles. They have different strengths. There are always going to be differences in personalities and characteristics that determine our leadership style and impact. Different doesn’t mean superior however. Mary Cunningham Agee said, “Women have for centuries been recognized as talented listeners, nurturers, motivators, and excellent communicators. These very qualities that we once were told were ‘unbusiness-like’ are precisely the qualities that business needs to tap human potential.” Let’s look at 10 ways women are, in general, better at some important qualities of leadership.
1. Women are better at relationships
Leadership is influence and the majority of influence comes from the relationship we have with someone. Because, the better the relationship we have with someone, the more we trust them. Most women are simply better by nature at building relationships. It comes natural to learn about the other person – what they like, what their kids’ names are, and when their birthday is. We follow leaders (formal and informal) who make us feel cared for. We trust people who make us feel cared for.
2. Women are better listeners
As a rule, women listen better. When we listen to someone, we are allowing them to influence us, but we are also increasing our influence with them. Don’t you like someone who listens to you more than someone who interrupts you all the time, won’t look up from their phone while having a conversation with you, or isn’t paying any attention to what you have to say? Of course you do. We all like to be listened to because it validates us as human beings. When we like someone more, they have more influence with us.
3. Women are more empathetic
To be clear, empathy is NOT sympathy. But, women are better at empathizing, which means they have an inclination to see things from the perspective of someone else. It doesn’t mean they AGREE with the other person however, it’s just the ability and willingness to step outside our own frame of reference and see things from the viewpoint of someone else. All leaders must learn to empathize.
4. Women are less reactive
We all make mistakes at times and say things, or do things, we later regret. But, women as a rule tend to be less reactive (or hot-headed). That is to say, there is no doubt women in general are more emotional than men. But, as human beings we have the freedom to choose our response to those emotions and women frequently choose a less aggressive and less reactive response than men. Women seem to naturally realize that blowing up with aggression never improves our situation – or our influence with positive people.
5. Women are more sensitive
Women ARE more emotional than men, as a rule. More likely to laugh and more likely to cry. That’s because women tend to be more sensitive toward the situation and to other people. Women also feel less pressured to always be “tough” and this frees them up to be more intuitive when it comes to reading the emotions of others. And, then simply responding in a caring way so the person feels valued. Women tend to be more persuasive than dictatorial, which in turn leads to a higher level of influence long term. Asking someone for help rather than telling them they must help you will always increase your influence with that person.
6. Women are less competitive with each other
Women have almost always been perceived as the “weaker” sex, and perhaps that has helped most women realize it’s better to focus on becoming their best rather than running over someone else. That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t strive to improve ourselves. If we are trying to get better because we are capable of doing so, that’s maximizing potential. If we are trying to beat out someone else because we believe when they win, we lose, we will ultimately lose out because as Peyton Manning said, “The most valuable player on the team is the one who makes the most players valuable.” Women seem to more naturally help cheer on other women and celebrate their successes too.
7. Women are more forgiving
We can’t move very fast, nor go very far, when we are dragging the past behind us. And as Ghandi said, “Forgiveness is the attribute of the strong.” Letting go of anger, bitterness, or hate when someone hurts us is more about realizing that we can choose a positive, proactive response that will always serve us better. Taking the “high road” always increases our influence with high impact leaders and positive people around us. Those with highly developed character value spending time with leaders who are able to let a grudge go instead of allowing it to eat them alive from the inside.
8. Women are more nurturing
Women tend to be more nurturing by nature. They are usually better at the “little things” that become big things with people. The thoughtful gifts, kind words, and willingness to help someone else. Women tend to take on a maternal role when developing others, seeing it as part of their role to pour into and mentor someone they are leading. They are more naturally inclined to be a caregiver, which translates to a more nurturing leader. And often, as William Ross Wallace said, “The hand that rocks the cradle rules the world.”
9. Women are less confrontational
This can be both a strength and a weakness of course. Leaders must be willing to have confrontations at times but it’s HOW they are conducted that makes the difference. Women tend to be less confrontational and more of a “peacekeeper” by nature. This is a strength because it means they are far less likely to force confrontations instead of facilitate resolutions. It can also be a weakness however if women leaders avoid confrontations that actually need to happen. Leaders aren’t going to, and shouldn’t try, to simply make everyone happy. Leaders are faced with the tough responsibility of leading the team where it needs to go. And, sometimes that means one team member must get off the train if they aren’t the right team player.
10. Women are better at saying “I’m sorry”
Not everyone of course, but as a rule, women are quicker to apologize when they make a mistake. It’s no surprise that leadership and influence isn’t improved when we pretend to be perfect. In truth, our influence with other people isn’t based on our ability to ignore our flaws, but rather to overcome them. Leaders must be willing to admit a mistake and then quickly do what they can to 1) correct it; and 2) avoid repeating it.
Like what you read? Find more on leadership for women in Ria’s books, especially Leadership Gems for Women (available in paperback, e-book, and audiobook) or listen to her FREE podcast on Anchor .fm.
Author Bio: Like many, Ria faced adversity in life. Ria was sexually abused by her father from age 12 – 19, forced to play the role of his wife, and even shared with other men. Desperate to escape, she left home at 19 without a job, a car, or even a high school diploma.
Today, Ria is a motivational leadership speaker, TEDx Speaker, and author of 11 books, including Leadership Gems for Women. Ria’s background includes more than 10 years in administrative healthcare with several years in leadership and management including working as the Director of Compliance for a large healthcare organization. Ria is a certified leadership speaker and trainer.
Ria shares powerful leadership principles and tools of transformation from her journey to equip and empower women, helping them maximize their potential in life and leadership and become the woman God created them to be.