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  • Writer's pictureMiriam Grobman

Are Women Better Leaders Than Men?

During my two years of MBA studies I learned about all the important qualities of a leader; he should be confident, brave, strategic, result-oriented but also ethical, good communicator, empathetic, team-player and a people's manager. I say "he" reflecting back that most of the case studies we covered featured male CEOs, most of the charismatic (and non-charismatic) speakers were male, ALL the famous leadership books were written by men (often about other men) and the majority of star professors at Wharton were men. To be fair, I did attend Martha Stewart's presentation on campus and was impressed by her entrepreneurial spirit. But as you may guess, someone who had been convicted on fraud charges was hardly an example to follow, albeit being a very entertaining speaker. I came out of the MBA thinking that perhaps women in the past were not as capable leaders as men, but the 40% of my graduating class female cohort would prove history wrong. When I set off to my post-MBA career, I had a really tough time visualizing what kind of a leader I'd like to be. It was made worse when I discovered that many senior people in the organizations I worked in were very far from the ideal role models. I started thinking that perhaps real-world leadership was not for me. I definitely did not want to be like THEM. Then I stumbled upon an HBR article that really snapped me into action. It was titled Are Women Better Leaders than Men? and described a 2011 study by leadership development consultancy, Zenger Folkman. The study analyzed 360 degree performance reviews of 7,280 leaders to identify gender differences in leadership effectiveness. Key Findings 1. Women overall performed better than men and this gap increased with seniority.

2. Women outperformed men on 12 out of 16 leadership qualities and came about the same on the rest, with some underperformance on developing strategic perspective.

Wow. It was the first time that I saw research-based evidence that women were not inferior leaders. Of course my next step from this was trying to understand how come we didn't have many more of them in key leadership roles. What a waste of talent!

Where Do We Go From Here? Let's start eliminating the biases in our organizations by: a) Redefining evaluation criteria, b) Articulating the value that women leaders bring to the table, and c) Controlling for own bias when evaluating others.


Are You an Effective Leader? Take the Zenger Folkman Test. It will take you about eight minutes, and you will receive a feedback report, which will compare the way you’ve rated yourself with similar self-scores of 45,000 leaders in their global database. You can read more about the assessment here. Contact me if you'd like to discuss results.

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